Go for Gold! depicts the transformation of London’s landscape in preparation for the 2012 Olympic Games. It examines how the 2012 Games contribute to the social and geographical transformation of the Lower Lea Valley landscape; a dynamic that occurs every four years across the world in new Olympic cities.
The first series is from 2006-2007 when I photographed the future sports venues of the 2012 Olympic Games. These images capture the last moments of the Lea Valley landscape before the construction for the Olympics’ development programme started.
Images from this series are primarily of sublime landscapes and industrial spaces. The only indication of how these places will be transformed comes from the titles, which mark the specific sport venue. This ironic disjuncture between the image and the title causes one to think about the construction and disruption that must occur in order to make the Olympics real.
The second series is from 2008-2011 when I photographed around the blue fence that surrounds the Olympic construction site and the high security fence that replaced the blue fence in 2009. These photos show how the Olympic construction site disrupts the connections between residents and their natural and built environment.
Go for Gold!’s overarching message is a critique of how the Olympic Games have been transformed from a sporting to an economic event in which urban regeneration plays a major role. According to the promotional material, the Olympics will generate a better environment for local residents through urban regeneration. My work questions this premise/promise and I argue that the Olympics are mainly used to bolster London’s status as a global economic centre at the expense of local inhabitants’ needs. I encourage people to think about how the Olympics help London compete with other global cities to attract media attention, tourist travel, and foreign investment, all for the benefit of large international corporations and not the local population. This trend is also visible in all the other Olympic host cities.