Come to see the gongs, not the gangs in Stratford
22:30 GMT, 3 July 2012
After the tragic events at Westfield last Friday, a Panorama investigation can surely not be too far away. The Shopping Malls of Hate they could call it.
Reporter Chris Rogers staring
solemnly into camera, predicting dire consequences for anyone foolish
enough to visit London’s Olympic Games. Tourists may come home in a
coffin, he will warn.
An Olympic legend — Mark Spitz,
maybe, or Eddie the Eagle — will explain that, while he has not visited
Stratford or east London any time recently, he can vouch for the fact
that it is a hellhole, populated with vicious gangs waiting to rip out
your throat on the way to the hockey.
has been accused of sensationalising and rubbishing the reputation of
two entire countries, Poland and Ukraine, prior to the European
Championship. Don’t think it couldn’t happen here. Not least because,
without doubt, crime in the immediate proximity of the Olympic site is a
Walking distance: The Olympic Stadium viewed from Westfield
When Liam Woodards, 24 and a
Stratford resident, was stabbed to death after a fight broke out between
groups of young men in the 1.45billion Westfield centre, it is fair to
say few who know the area were surprised.
My father still works on a market
stall in east London. One of his staff doubled as a part-time Westfield
security guard and his personal experiences were rarely the greatest
enticement for shoppers.
One day my father mused that, being
genuinely interested in the project, he fancied jumping on a Central
Line train and going to see the Olympic Stadium as it rose.
‘I wouldn’t,’ said a customer. He
lived in Stratford and painted a gloomy picture of gangs lying in wait
for the unsuspecting. Now we can dismiss this information as merely
anecdotal, but DHL won’t deliver to my father’s part of east London, and
the banks have all shut because they kept getting robbed.
The last crime statistics for the
London Borough of Newham, where the Olympic Stadium is based, revealed
that in May there were 28 cases of most serious violence, 612 of
violence against the person, 136 muggings, 10 business robberies, 167
residential burglaries, 70 burglaries and 1,470 instances of anti-social
The only London borough with more
occasions of serious violent crime against an individual (murder,
wounding, GBH, assault with injury, common assault, offensive weapon
use, harassment and the vaguely encapsulating ‘other violence’) is
Westminster, where many Olympic tourists will stay.
More from Martin Samuel…
Martin Samuel: Wimbledon sexism row… it's 50 Shades of Grey
Martin Samuel: Unlucky Heather… or simply not up to it Watson's failings are exposed
No, minister, you are not up to the job: Why the inexperienced Chloe Smith deserved Paxo's grilling
Psycho Pearce He's not as mad as he seems (Still as brave, though)
Martin Samuel: This was pure punk tennis… it was edgy in a good way
Martin Samuel: Why did Roy give up on the Baresi of England Revolution means Jones
Martin Samuel: Hands to the pump, backs to the wall… that all we've got
Martin Samuel: Until England can find their Pirlo, we must prepare for more of this
VIEW FULL ARCHIVE
Let the mayhem begin, as Jacques
Rogge, the International Olympic Committee president, will not be saying
at the opening ceremony.
Alighting at Stratford station this
summer, visitors will have to walk through the mall where Woodards died
to get to the Olympic Park. So, should they be fearful Not at all.
Westfield will be the safest place in
Britain. This is the point Panorama missed with their scaremongering
prior to the European Championship. Never worry about random acts of
violence or nastiness during an Olympics, World Cup or European
Stadiums of Hate, their ill-received investigation, may have highlighted real and serious problems for football fans in eastern Europe but Panorama forgot that, in tournaments, different rules apply.
Major sporting events are like Christmas. For a brief spell, they make the world a better place.
‘It’s the most wonderful time of the year,’ sang Andy Williams. ‘I wish it could be Christmas every day,’ added Roy Wood. And remember the Vince Guaraldi Trio’s Christmas Time Is Here from those Charlie Brown specials
‘Oh that we could always see, such spirit through the year.’
Sporting festivals are like that. Your club may be blighted by a hardcore band of racist boneheads, but they will know to keep the Swastika flag rolled up in the drawer for three weeks in June.
Gangs may infest your shopping mall and make your streets a no-go area at night, but the heavy, visible police presence the community has been demanding without success for 10 years will suddenly appear for one month only, and the crime statistics will slip off the graph.
Danny Jordaan, who delivered a safe and secure World Cup in South Africa as promised, did so by putting the country in a state of virtual lockdown with 40,000 extra police.
Strength in numbers: South African police fend off New Zealand fans in Polokwane
From my hotel in Sandton to the main centre, you passed one every 20 yards. A bloke got five years for stealing an Argentina fan’s mobile telephone. There were 15,940 murders in South Africa between April 2010 and March 2011, but in that time everybody reported a peaceful, harmonious World Cup.
The problem was real: but temporarily suppressed.
A host nation knows its duty during a major sporting occasion. Long before the successful relaunch of Major League Soccer, the United States embraced the 1994 World Cup. The locals might have cheered giant goal kicks under the impression they were demonstrations of skill, but they bought into the idea of a big event and most games were sell-outs. The total attendance figure remains the highest in World Cup history, despite it being the last competition to feature 24 teams.
Citizens know the salesman’s role expected of them, with the eyes of the world watching, and even those that do not will encounter a policeman with sufficient regularity to curb the temptation to go rogue or off message. So do not fret.
There will be more chance of finding a small, independent retailer in the chain store Westfield complex than there will a victim of violent crime once the Olympics is here.
The media has learned its lesson, too. The bottom fell out of the doom market in South Africa and after Panorama’s chastening experience in Poland and Ukraine, there will be little appetite for negativity in the future, whatever the circumstances.
If there are reporters with grave misgivings about random crime, readiness or travel chaos in Brazil two years from now, they would be well advised to keep quiet.
The cleansing process has already begun, apparently. Brazil is having its roughest edges smoothed in time for the arrival of Sepp and the boys.
The final humiliation for Panorama’s investigators will come when a formal complaint to the BBC is made by the FA this week.
Sensing the chance to score some rare points with the international community, the FA will make known their belated objections to the Stadiums of Hate investigation.
It would have been more impressive if they had acted at the time, rather than waiting to see if the tournament went off all right, but such is the world of football politics. It is open season on Panorama now. They warned of racism and hooliganism in Poland and Ukraine, Sol Campbell, a former England international, suggested there could be fatalities if fans travelled. And nothing happened.
Well, not exactly nothing. There were some outbreaks of violence involving Russian and Polish supporters, a banana here, a few dubious chants there.
Flaring up: Police intervene as Polish and Russian fans clash in Warsaw
The predicted hatred, however, did not materialise; just as crime was not the problem anticipated in South Africa, localised dangers around the Olympic Stadium will recede once Britain is becalmed during July and August.
Always show your best side to London, goes the saying, and this summer the country will do precisely that.
People know the parameters of respectability. Ron Atkinson threw away his television career with some appalling remarks about Chelsea defender Marcel Desailly, but he did not intend making them on air.
Atkinson would never be that foolish. He knew what was and wasn’t palatable. His comments came at a time when he thought his microphone was not broadcasting, but they were aired in the Middle East by mistake.
Carol Thatcher did not use derogatory terms to describe the tennis player Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in any television studio. She waited until she was safely back in the green room, having what she termed a private conversation. Aside from sad sacks like Jacqueline Woodhouse — the ranting racist train lady — most people in Britain know exactly what to say in public and private to avoid trouble.
Why should other communities be different Eastern Europe is not widely populated by thugs and racists. Then again, Panorama never said it was. It has its share, though, do not doubt it.
The programme was flawed in many areas and misguided in others, but its intimation that there was the potential for disorder, that certain clubs had violent factions and black people in particular had been targeted, was not unreasonable given pre-tournament evidence.
The presentation was dramatic, the language — Campbell’s in particular — overblown; but we would be foolish to believe they made it all up.
Elton John played a concert in Kiev for Aids awareness at the weekend. He spoke out about draft law 8711, to be addressed by the Ukrainian parliament this week, which will make it an offence to express support for homosexuality in public.
Special guest: Elton John and his partner David Furnish welcome Svyatoslav Sheremet
A backstage guest at his concert was Svyatoslav Sheremet, a gay activist who was beaten savagely by thugs, disguised in surgical masks, at a gay pride march abandoned after an hour because the police could not guarantee safety.
Yet, was homophobic activity visible in the three weeks of the European Championship Not to these eyes.
Is a tournament the faithful proving ground of a society and its values
Hardly. Documentary film-makers do your worst. Westfield shopping centre will be perfectly safe for a stroll come July 27; just don’t arrive early, or late, for as one young man found to his cost, the world will be a very different place.
Time Spain’s illustrious coach took some praise
His official form of address is Ilustrisimo Seor Marques de Del Bosque (The Most Illustrious Marquis of Del Bosque), so Vicente del Bosque is hardly an unsung hero, but in the circumstances it is quite remarkable how little personal praise Spain’s coach has received for creating one of the greatest football teams of all time.
Trophy magnet: Vicente del Bosque
Considering Roy Hodgson was almost canonised in some quarters for simply making England hard to beat, what price Del Bosque’s thinking in landing the European Championship for Spain He may not have been the only coach to work out that Andrea Pirlo must be neutralised for Italy to be beaten, but he was the one who came up with the best plan of attack.
Hodgson may have told England’s players
that he was happy with the way they dealt with Pirlo, but he got lucky.
Had Italy taken their chances that night, Pirlo’s passing would have won
the game long before the penalty shootout. Joachim Low of Germany was
similarly all at sea negating him.
Del Bosque’s Spain, however,
swarmed all over Pirlo the moment he got the ball, turning him back
towards Italy’s goal. The tears he cried on the final whistle were
frustration as much as disappointment. He knew he had been mastered.
Study also Del Bosque’s reaction to the injury to David Villa. His false striker tactic may not be wholly original — Holland’s total footballers played that way, to some extent, as did Arsenal’s Invincibles — but it was still a radical way of dealing with a common problem for managers in tournaments. Del Bosque lost a key player and thought his way out of it, rather than persevering with inferiors.
Sidelined: Spain were without David Villa (centre) and Carles Puyol (right) as Spain successfully defended to the European Championship they won under Luis Aragones (left)
Once again, the revolution starts in the mind. It is hard to play like Spain without this bountiful crop of players, but equally, talent is undermined unless it is matched by explosions of creative thought. Some think Del Bosque has it easy, just as Roberto Mancini coasts on Manchester City’s money, or it is a breeze to be in charge at Manchester United.
Yet Del Bosque is alone in winning the World Cup, European Championship and Champions League so it may, just a little bit, also be about him.
Pearce calls it right
There is a reason Stuart Pearce did not give Team GB chief Andy Hunt advance warning of his decision to drop David Beckham. It is the same one that explains why Sir Alex Ferguson does not run his selections past chief executive David Gill, or Roberto Mancini never allows Sheik Mansour a heads up when he decides to drop Carlos Tevez. It is not their business.
It would not have occurred to Pearce that there was a long line of people needing to be kept in the loop here, from the British Olympic Association to Team GB or the Football Association.
He is the manager, he picks the team. That is how football works. Always has, always should. Team GB wanted to put footballers into the Olympics and must respect the integrity of their sport. The manager is his own man. Pearce wouldn’t have taken the job any other way, and neither would any contemporary worth a carat.
Keeping it quiet: Stuart Pearce has handled David Beckham's Olympic omission admirably
‘I’d love to have found out earlier that David wasn’t in,’ said Hunt. Really So you could do what Counsel against it Throw a strop Apply a little pressure, as James Fox’s gangster says in Performance. Maybe that is why Pearce went ahead and contacted Beckham without turning the decision-making process into a conference call.
If so, he is smarter than he looks. As for Hunt, his official title is chef de mission. If he wants to get involved, he could always cut the England coach a cheese sandwich.
Is Silva superhuman
We now have a biennial debate about a Premier League mid-season break, in the wake of another tournament blighted by injury and fatigue for English players. So one question: after 49 appearances for Manchester City this season, and nine for Spain, why wasn’t David Silva tired Might it be the chasing, not the playing, that takes it out of you
No sign of fatigue: David Silva started every game of Spain's Euro 2012 campaign
Andre Villas-Boas has been installed as Harry Redknapp’s successor at Tottenham Hotspur, with the club also likely to announce new signings Gylfi Sigurdsson and Jan Vertonghen, two players who were on the radar before the new manager. This is undoubtedly a healthy start to the relationship between coach and board and one that can only lead to further harmony down the line.