Olympic Memory Marathon: Part 2 - "I am one of the 104"

Martin Belam by Martin Belam, 13 November 2009
I am one of the 104

At the weekend I took part in an art project for the London 2012 Olympics called the "Memory Marathon". Artist Simon Pope walked the distance of a marathon whilst talking to 104 people who lived or worked in the London Boroughs hosting the next games about their memories of the Olympics. Yesterday I blogged about the workshops leading up to the event, and today I wanted to write about my experience on November 7th, the day of the "Memory Marathon"

Olympic Memory Marathon leaflet

I got to walk in a section in Leyton, from Grange Road to Farmer Road, but my meet-up point was in Hackney. This was a bit of a mix-up to start with, as we were meant to be meeting in a cafe, but before I arrived one of the group had managed to get into a row with the owner about using the toilets. So by the time I got there, the group was gathered in the road boycotting the cafe in the cold, until eventually one of the production team stepped in to sort it out.

The cafe where we should have met

The logistics of putting the walk together must have been very difficult. There were around 35 people working on the production, with a rolling roster of volunteers waiting with people before they started their stint, and helping them get home afterwards. Understandably the project, which had started at 6:30am, began to get a little behind schedule.

Part of the route on Simon's laptop

In my bunch of participants we also had a classic case where child safety legislation has become a regulatory burden. One leg was being done by two thirteen year old girls, and their section involved walking across a golf course in what was now the very dark early evening. Leaving them on their own in the dark with just a torch and a mobile phone was pretty inadvisable, but leaving an additional person with them who hadn't been CRB checked was, in the eyes of the law, worse. The situation was solved by getting one of their parents, who had been following the progress of the team in their car, to escort them along their section.

Grange Road where I picked up the baton

My stint followed on directly from British Paralympics athlete Ade Adepitan and I caught the end of his story as he handed over to me. I found that after his tale of featuring in the closing ceremony of the Paralympics in Beijing, and the sight and sound of 110,000 people raising the hairs on the back of his neck, my story of visiting some sites where the early Olympics were held in Greece and London seemed rather tame.

The crew working in the dark

Although the day of filming meant a lot of hanging around and getting rather chilly, I'm really glad I took part in the project. I've inadvertently been following a path that keeps bringing me into contact with the Olympics. We were in China when the Beijing Games started, in Salzburg whilst they were bidding for the 2014 Winter Olympics, and were visiting Northern Italy during the 2006 Winter Games in Torino. I'm delighted that I will be in London when my home borough of Waltham Forest gets to host the Olympics. I feel that in taking part in the film I've become part of that story.

Waltham Forest particpants on the notice board

Next...

Next week I'll have a write-up of the Olympic memories of Athens and London that I related to Simon.

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