Last Saturday (27 February), Tim Harrold went on a tour of the Olympic Park in Stratford.
The purpose of the visit was not only to see the progress of the incredible structures that are being built on the site, but to gauge how Thurrock and the Thames Gateway Prayernet might engage with the whole spectacle and opportunity of the 2012 London Olympics and Paralympics. After all, our borough is only a short train journey from the biggest sporting event to come to these shores in a long time!
The eyes of the whole world will be on our little corner of Britain, so significant in so many ways. The geography, that determines the history, and the history that determines the mindsets, and the mindsets that determine the spiritual atmosphere.
The fact that the Olympic Park straddles the River Lee with 31 new bridges is itself of significance – the river represents the division between the lands of the Danelaw and the kingdom of Alfred.
On the site, there is a ‘soil hospital’ – because of all the industry that used to be there, the land became contaminated with all sorts of chemicals, so all the earth has had to be cleaned. The lady leading the tour even used the phrase, ‘cleansing the land’!
So, you see, these are the little indications of those geographical, historical and spiritual echoes resonating down through palimpsestual halls to us now.
The Olympics are at heart a pagan festival, the flame coming as it does from Mount Olympus in Greece, home of Zeus and the pantheon of the ancient Greeks. The unity of mankind that this represents, celebrates and promotes is akin to that of Nimrod’s efforts at Babel – people from many faith backgrounds, cultures and languages, will be gathered at the Olympics and Paralympics.
But this represents an enormous challenge and incredible once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the Church to unite in engagement at a whole host of levels. There’s possibilities are endless! Hospitality, stewarding, chaplaincy, prayer, mission, evangelism… the list goes on. More Than Gold has been set up to coordinate to the Christian response.
London 2012 promises to be the first entirely ‘green’ Olympics and Paralympics and there’s a great emphasis on ‘legacy’. The idea is that not only is the environment is being considered at every step, but also how the site is used beyond those few weeks in the summer of 2012.
Transformation Thurrock are committed to being linked into the London Olympics, and are supporting and developing partnership with Transform Newham. The other Olympic boroughs are: Greenwich, Tower Hamlets, Hackney and Waltham Forest. Castle Point are hosting the Mountain Biking at Hadleigh Castle (which was chosen over Thurrock’s Langdon Hills). Sailing events are taking place in Falmouth, Cornwall.
If you’d like to see the main Olympic Stadium development and the amazing emergent ‘wave’ architecture of Acquatics Centre, and just to get an overview of the vastness of the project, then please book a bus tour at www.toursof2012sites.com.
For more information about More Than Gold, please take a look at www.morethangold.org.uk.
>>> The Thames Gateway Prayernet hope to hire an entire bus for a service of prayer and praise around the site at Stratford later in the year.
Pictures, top to bottom:
Tim in front of the Olympic Stadium; the River Lee flows by the Aquatics Centre; the structure of the Aquatics Centre distinctive ‘wave’ shape; Newham sign – Working For You; the Olympic Village.