Yesterday saw the first leg of the Counter Olympics Network alternative torch relay, with three of us (Simon, Charlie and myself) running the torch from Stratford to Wanstead Flats. We had a number of people with us on bikes, including Michael who led us brilliantly through the route, journalists from Games Monitor and elsewhere, and even a police escort of two cyclists who very kindly allowed us to run in the road. (They were not the only official presence, there were a number of Olympic vehicles along the route, we went via the new Police HQ on Wanstead Flats, and when we got to Fred Wigg Tower, two of the soldiers there gave us a wave).
It was one of the most enjoyable protests I’ve ever been on. We carried the Vancouver Poverty Olympics torch as we ran, and as people saw us you could watch them thinking: “is that the Official relay? … what are they carrying? … oh!” and then laugh (for those of you who’ve never seen the torch it’s in the speaker Julian’s right hand above). The torch is a sink plunger decorated with gold ribbon. In the flesh it’s very obviously not the “real” torch. And we were going slowly enough to keep up a shouted explanation or two “Sport for the millions, not the millionaires … What have the Games done for East London? … Say No to the Coca-Cola Olympics” etc).
I’ve not had as many smiles, waves, laughs, on any demonstration or anything – since perhaps I was a child and (this is true) my uncle used to drive me round the small towns of middle England in the car Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (which he had bought after being a stunt driver on the film).
Onwards then to round 2 of the relay – this Friday, departing from 2pm from the cafe at Clissold Park in Stoke Newington.
See you there.