On The Other Side 2: Words


At the Greenway café, where they serve Portuguese food, the Brazilian guy behind the counter says business is up because of the Olympics but not by as much as they’d hoped. A television journalist from Hong Kong and his cameraman sit at one of the tables. They’re struggling to come up with a news story every day because the Olympics are running so smoothly.
The Greenway is in Hackney Wick, where grimy and cool mingle. A refrigeration company, a car parts supplier and other unglamorous firms share the old, brown brick streetscape with artists’ studios, galleries and bars. Only the green water of a canal separates the area from the Olympic Park but this place has a very different feel. Tens of thousands of people were wandering around the park yesterday but streets in Hackney Wick were almost deserted in the hot sun. It felt a little like a small Mediterranean town at siesta time.
Some businesses here had hoped for an Olympic bonanza but it doesn’t look like they got one, maybe because they’re near one of the quieter park entrances and the official route from the station takes people around these streets, not through them.
Round the corner from the Greenway café stands The Fringe, a “pop-up” Olympic club spread over four floors. But the guy at the door says it won’t be opening today and probably won’t open again during the Olympics. There were 2,500 people there the first night but since then it’s been very quiet, he says.
By the side of the canal, an Olympic “water chariot” service looks very quiet too. (It has slashed its prices, presumably because people did not fancy paying up to £95 for a short boat trip.)
At Forman’s, an upmarket salmon smokery, they’ve gone for the corporate hospitality market in a big way. They’ve built a beach, complete with beach volleyball court, right by the canal opposite the Olympic Stadium and set up a giant screen. On the top floor, there’s a terrace bar with a view of the stadium, a small exhibition about Muhammad Ali and a big dining room (although they may not get many bookings after this review). The guy in the black suit on the door says business has been good. But it was quiet yesterday during the day. Maybe the place comes to life when Ronnie Scott’s jazz all stars strike up at night.
Along the road, at the Counter Café, inside the Stour Space gallery, a woman behind the (presumably eponymous) counter says trade is neither up nor down because of the Olympics. “Business as usual,” she says. A friendly Italian waitress at the Carlton café, where they serve elderflower iced tea on a terrace with a stadium view, says Olympic business is good but not spectacular.
The shopkeeper in the convenience store next door is not happy at all. He says the Olympics has “killed this area”. It’s never felt so dead in his three years here. He says landlords pushed up rents ahead of the Games, forcing people to move out, and some local businesses have closed down for the Olympics. They thought getting in and out of the area would be too difficult.
Outside his shop, a shiny big black taxi pulls up. An American woman in the back asks if there is a “prayer’s chance” of getting a ticket for the Olympic Park. I say it will be tough but her best bet is probably to try somewhere around the main entrance at Stratford. She says she has a good feeling and the taxi heads off in search of Olympic excitement.

(The previous post is a slideshow of Hackney Wick pictures.)

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