Olympics in Tower Hamlets smells of rotten fish and fresh manure. Fish smell greets me every morning as I walk to Whitechapel tube; but manure is something new. If I wasn’t in a rush, I’d look around for signs that police horses had been there earlier in the morning.

Whitechapel is my new neighbourhood, and Tower Hamlets, the host of London 2012, is my new borough. One of the poorest areas in Western Europe, it is supposed to be born anew after christening with Olympic fire.

Londoners really love despising Tower Hamlets and the Olympics. But I, the person whose default position in life is to look at everything down her nose, suddenly love it. I feel at home in this immigrant shithole; I love its saris, its bagels and its coriander. I’m even ok with its rotten fish which my landlord says he would not touch if the seller’s daughter brought it to his house and cooked it naked. I saw the Olympic torch relay from my balcony, while those who escaped the Olympics saw the same piece of brie they see year in year out in the south of France. “This is life”, they sigh, looking at some olive groves in Tuscany. “No, this is fucking life”, we proudly say, inhaling the dubious air of Tower Hamlets and trying to convince ourselves that it we are smelling sweat from the Olympic village.

Meanwhile two miles away, in the City, a colleague of mine, Andriy Maksymovych, brought his Olympic torch to work, to give people the opportunity to take a picture with it and to donate to a charity for a Ukrainian girl with cancer. Hundreds of bankers clamouring to lay their hands on the torch queued for three hours; some brought kids from home. So on the first day of London Olympics, I held the torch. Beat that, cynical middle classes.


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