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Boris tells East Enders to 'Like it or lump it' over marathon route

PUBLISHED: 16:05 13 October 2010 | UPDATED: 13:35 14 October 2010

Boris Johnson is standing by plans for the Olympic marathon to bypass Tower Hamlets

Boris Johnson is standing by plans for the Olympic marathon to bypass Tower Hamlets

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LONDON mayor Boris Johnson doggedly stood by plans for the Olympic marathon to bypass the East End, telling objectors "you can like it or lump it".

During a heated exchange at Mayor’s Question Time at City Hall this morning, the mayor was adamant the decision to remove Tower Hamlets from the route for the 2012 Games was the right one.

He said: “I have decided it is absolutely right to go ahead with a different route.

“With the massive regeneration that is going to be injected into east London, I don’t think 80 runners not proceeding through east London for 20 minutes is going to be the end of the world.

“I thought it would not be the greatest disappointment, given that £9.2 billion is being pumped into east London.”

Earlier this month the Advertiser launched a campaign to bring the route back in line with original plans, so the famous sights of the East End could be shown off on the world stage.

The route was due to start at Tower Bridge, snake around the City and Westminster and end at the stadium in Stratford.

It will now start at The Mall and run through various loops in central London before finishing in the same spot.

But Mr Johnson dismissed aims highlighting the injustice of ignoring Tower Hamlets as “a storm in a teacup”.

John Biggs, Labour’s City and East London Assembly member, lobbied the Conservative mayor on the issues.

He said: “We brought the Olympics to London to breathe new energy and life to the East End.

“If Boris thinks this is a not a big deal then that’s very worrying.”

Traffic chaos as a result of road closures in the borough, especially around Tower Bridge, was presented as the main reason for the re-route.

Eleven other events in the area on the same day were also said to make it untenable for the marathon to run through Tower Hamlets.

But Mr Biggs and Tory London Assembly member Andrew Boff are not convinced by the arguments.

Mr Biggs said: “As Boris said, it’s just a 20 minute run. I can’t see why it causes more trouble for the East End than the West End.

And Mr Boff added: “It’s OK to shut off roads for IOC (International Olympic Committee) officials but it’s not OK for east Londoners to show off their sights?

“This circular, stupid route is not a marathon.”

Mr Biggs is now asking for details of the information used in the report.

There is suspicion that the requests of sponsors may have swayed the decision.

He said: “Logistically they claim it’s all about transport. But we fear it could have been motivated by sponsors. Have they sold the interests of east Londoners to them?”

Tower Hamlets council is considering launching legal action against organisers, saying it was never contacted over potential traffic problems.

Cllr Helal Abbas, council leader, said: “This is an insult for the people of Tower Hamlets who have been the backbone of the bid for the Olympic Games.

“For a single event not to be held in Tower Hamlets is an insult when many of our residents will not be able to afford tickets.”

Jim Fitzpatrick, Labour MP for Poplar & Limehouse, said: “This demonstrates the absolute betrayal of the Olympic bid process and Boris has got it entirely wrong.

“He’s an elected politician. He’s supposed to be with Londoners.”

Fellow Labour MP Rushanara Ali, for Bethnal Green & Bow, added: “It will be an absolute disgrace if once again the people of the East End do not benefit from huge investment and huge opportunities that come our way. That is not a storm in a teacup. That is a serious matter.

“The marathon is very important for east London and I fully support the East London Advertiser campaign.”

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