1. ITV Report

Blog: A decade of Olympic stories

Simon Harris reporting from the Olympic Park 10 years ago. Photo: ITN
A decade later, Simon Harris returns to the same bridge at the Olympic Park. Credit: ITN

A small cast iron footbridge over a polluted canal has a special place in my personal record of London's Olympic story.

My cameraman colleague Kevin O'Mahony and I discovered the bridge in August 2003 when we were assigned to report from a forgotten corner of East London known as the Lower Lea Valley.

Our job was to examine how the Olympic games might transform this twilight zone of scrapyards, railway sidings and waterways. By now, Paris was the clear front runner in the race for 2012. London had more doubters and sceptics than believers.

The water beneath the pale green metal bridge was a carpet of duck weed, punctured by plastic bags and assorted floating rubbish. In the background were electricity pylons and industrial decay.

It all seemed to sum up the hopeless and impossible nature of London's dream of hosting the Olympics. We decided the bridge would be the perfect location to illustrate the dream and the challenge of the London bid.

I stood in the middle and said: "Venice, it most certainly is not. As for comparisons with Sydney Harbour, they're not even worth thinking about. But if London's bid is successful, this will become the stunning natural feature at the heart of the 2012 games". Fat chance, we thought!. Fast forward ten years and that Victorian metal bridge is one of the only relics of the Lower Lea Valley to survive the Olympic make-over.

For me, the bridge is permanent reminder of an extraordinary decade of change.

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