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Barcelona and London: Who tells the story?

When telling the story of Barcelona Professor Muñoz also made some interesting comments about the previous occupants of the docklands area which was cleared to make way for the new gentrified suburb. They were, he said, 'mainly women and squatters'. If I recall the number moved was 55,000, a lot of plainly undesirable women and squatters! Of course, as with the Lea Valley the allegedly derelict nature of the area was also rehearsed. It was after all a docklands area, rather like the industrial land cleared for the London 2012 Olympics, land deliberately used by the city for 'dirty' projects and providing services others preferred not to have on their doorstep but then condemned for those very purposes to justify its seizure. Professor Muñoz referred to the process by which the company redeveloping the site moved from being publicly controlled to privately controlled, as if this somehow justified the loss of housing for the poor. The Barcelona Olympics was supposed to deliver public benefits but failed to do so. As a public project it was for the city and national governments to ensure this occurred but they failed to do this.

Also bumped into Paul Brickell, who is now Executive Director of Regeneration and Community partnerships at the LLDC and also a Newham Councillor. He actually did come to visit us at Clays Lane, something neither Mayor Wales, who promised to do so when I saw him in Stratford Mall but who, two people told me on separate occasions, later described Clays Lane residents as 'peasants', something he now denies, nor Lyn Brown MP, who told her constituency Labour Party members that she had been visiting Clays Lane, managed to do.

Mr Brickell said the LLDC disagrees with the ODA over the new park being the largest new park in Europe for 150 years. He referred to the Northolt and Greenford park, already publicised on Games Monitor, as a larger park in London in the last twenty years. Not sure if he got this from Games Monitor. However, he noted that this particular lie now seems too well established in its endless repetition by lazy journalists and academics to be uprooted, although he didn't use quite this language!

Property development is of course key to understanding the Olympics. How appropriate then that Barcelona should be the subject of the first of UEL's new series of seminars, the Olympics where gentrification featured so powerfully and which was organised by that leading fascist Barcelona property speculator Juan Antonio Samaranch.


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