Tower Hamlets Council considers legal action over Olympic ‘snub’

TOWER HAMLETS Council is considering launching legal action against Olympic organisers, suggesting plans to move the marathon for traffic reasons are simply a cover for a “wealthier backdrop.”

TOWER HAMLETS Council is considering launching legal action against Olympic organisers, suggesting plans to move the marathon for traffic reasons are simply a cover for a “wealthier backdrop.”

The attack follows Olympic chief Lord Seb Coe’s announcement on Monday that the marathon will be re-routed out of east London in an effort to avoid traffic chaos.

The marathon will no longer start at Tower Bridge and finish at the stadium in Stratford - as had originally been planned.

Instead, it will now start and finish at The Mall in west London, taking in iconic sights such as Buckingham Palace, St Paul’s Cathedral, and the Houses of Parliament.

Organisers claim the original route carried “a high risk of disruption to the many other sports taking place at the same time in the Olympic Park and across London.”

But that decision has been blasted by Tower Hamlets Council, which said: “The suspicion will remain that the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games (LOCOG) has adopted these reasons as cover for a preference to have a wealthier backdrop to this event.”

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The council is now challenging the rationale behind the decision, claiming it was never contacted about potential traffic implications.

In a letter sent to Paul Deighton, chief executive of LOCOG, the council says: “London won the Olympic and Paralympic Games because of the diversity and dynamism of east London’s communities. The marathon is the best celebration of that diversity and dynamism as it takes place in the heart of east London’s communities.

“There is no better way to celebrate and showcase London’s ethnic diversity than to have the world’s best athletes run past the mosques, churches, temples and cultural centres that make up the fabric of East End life.

“We believe this is a great backdrop to a great event. Indeed, the Olympic authorities also once thought this was the case. We do not believe it is credible for LOCOG to now send a message that it is ashamed of the very communities who helped London win the Games.”

The council is now looking into taking legal action over the snub.

Among LOCOG’s reasons for moving the original East End route were:

• It would have required the closure of Tower Bridge and other important artery roads.

• The starting point of Tower Bridge didn’t have enough space for operational facilities and broadcasting positions.

• Infrastructure and secure areas behind the Olympic Stadium would have also made it impossible for spectators to watch the final mile of the race.

• The new circuit - which loops round west London several times – would give spectators the chance to see runners more than once.

Chair of LOCOG, Sebastian Coe, said: “This is one of the hardest decisions we have had to take – and we realise that this may be disappointing for Tower Hamlets. We have agreed with the leader of Tower Hamlets Council to develop a proposal creating more opportunities for the borough to be part of the Games. The vast majority of the sporting action will take place in the Olympic Park in the heart of east London and the brand new sporting facilities and new housing we leave behind after the Games will be transformational for east London.

“Our prime objective as the organising committee has to be to deliver venues and events that work for the athletes, spectators and for the host city – venues that provide the best possible way of keeping the city moving, minimising disruption for everyone and, critically, getting the athletes and spectators to the venues on time.

“We are confident that the new route is the best way to do this.”