London, England

Olympic sized ambitions

Date March 2010
Posted January 2012
Busting into the London 2012 Olympic Stadium
If you read the little piece I wrote about danger and curiosity then you may have considered what it means to be there amongst those giant rock formations. There's a general feeling of freedom in such environments, not just because of the vast open spaces but because it's almost as if it's beyond the reaches of many of those societal boundaries. This could be because we're good at compartmentalising things, mentally tagging them. The national parks, mountain ranges and ridges are all filed under outdoors/extrovert/adventure/exciting. Somehow, this makes it alright.

London 2012 Olympics stadium, London, England (2010) courtesy of

Step back inside the metropolis and you're operating under different rules. The base instincts are the same - indeed once when being questioned by the Metropolitan Police about something I shouldn't have climbed (or, as I quietly viewed it, shouldn't have been caught climbing) the answers were more or less that mountains are good, but why should they be everything? Are we expected to keep that burning ambition, foolhardiness and lust for danger packaged away for weekends out of the city?

In a word: yes. Partly because nobody, least of all the cops, want accidents to happen on their patch, but because the city has enough to worry about already. We could debate for days the relative costs and dangers of activities such as those pictured here against the combined cost of, say, drug or alcohol abuse on a similar Saturday night, but the truth is that society understands these quantities. It can deal with the things that happen every day and night because it is rehearsed in what to do. When there's someone swinging about on top of a building or climbing down a hole in the pavement, it's an anomaly.

Construction projects such as this one always represent a good challenge, simply because there's lots at stake. Site owners and development companies are only too aware of the insurance companies that run the West, not only because they'll be trying to avoid reimbursing when that line of diggers is stolen after someone left the side gate open, but also because they know that at the slightest hint of breached safety regulations they'll see the other end of the corporate fuck-over stick. The impact of insurance and litigation represents a significant boundary to urban misbehaviour but nonetheless, this little band of darkly-clothed trouble starters didn't seem all that bothered by it.

With the above in mind, the men in charge sought to employ security consultants to fit out their construction site with all manner of carefully designed devices, from remotely controlled CCTV cameras to IR detectors and halogen lights. Pride of place was reserved around the perimeter for a man-sized electric fence... that wasn't switched on. If I'd been wearing a hat that night I'd have tipped it to Otter who deduced that the fence was running at zero amps by removing his glove and grabbing one of the wires.

Quickly, lest they turn it back on, our group of four scrabbled over the fence and dropped down onto the dirt. Hiding between pallets of bricks and assorted plant we sought a route across to the giant stadium. Yep, that's right, the goddamn London 2012 Olympics stadium. Our target this night had been chosen simply because we wanted to get involved. Whilst the ticket-selection process seemed to provide mild excitement for those wanting to cough-up the cash, what about actually doing something? Why are so many people happy to pay their money and just watch?

Those athletes they watch are trained to perfection, working hard to pass boundaries and records set in the past. Their attitude is one of perpetual improvement, of seeing something done and going better, of not accepting the way things are. This is something I admire and appreciate, and I sympathise with the fact that these people probably suffer a little offence when some retarded TV interview host remarks at how 'talented' they are. Such an easy and convenient way to explain away your lack of ability or ambition to do something that another can.

And so we dashed across the open space, running our own little race, our own little game. The fence, the wasteland, and then in front of us the stadium itself. An unconventional triathlon, I agree, but it satisfied our thirst. Quietly we spirited up the stairs and out into the seating area, taking immediately to the steel stairs and walkways that would lead us up above this theatre of achievements.

As I stood there I imagined how the scenario would unfold should we be caught. I imagined the cut-and-paste newspaper article and the commentards, probably demanding we were sent to prison and raped or nailed to a tree like they suggested later when those guys were caught in the subway. How funny that our perception of what is and isn't dangerous or detrimental to society is defined in such a haphazard and inconsistent way. How unfunny that, as per history's dark and painful reminders, so often the real danger is the people themselves and their fear of standing out in small numbers, instead hysterically casting stones with a complete lack of ability to understand or appreciate things that are different to their own lives. Unless, of course, such things are presented in a carefully packaged form with a sufficiently high price tag.

Maybe activities such as parkour and negotiating man-sized electric fences will one day be assumed onto the Olympic roster. I sincerely doubt it, but it'd be hilarious to watch those commentards sell their souls further to the slavery of APR by spooging money they don't have on the tickets...

Happy 2012!
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