Unlike the 1908 Olympics where plaques and memorials proudly pay tribute to the sites of the first London Olympic Games (see London and remembering the 1908 Olympics), the 1948 London Olympics in comparison seem largely forgotten.
Take the Harringay Arena for example; built in 1936 this grand 10,000 seater stadium was originally built to host Ice Hockey tournaments which proved very popular with the British public at the time, and Boxing. The stadium hit its sporting peak when it became the venue for Basketball heats and a number of other indoor events during the 1948 London Olympic Games. Its popularity dwindled however soon after and it closed down as a sporting venue in 1958. In 1978 it was demolished and the site was left to deteriorate. I remember often passing the site on the bus as a child in the early 1980s and seeing nothing there but concrete-slabbed wasteland used to park dumped car parts on, and a derelict mess of a building that seemed to be constructed from nothing but broken glass and rusted corrugated iron sheets.
By the late 1980s the site, together with its neighbouring Greyhound racing track, were bought by developers. First came a huge Sainsburys store, then a 24-hour drive-tru McDonalds, then an array of shops making up the ‘Arena Shopping Park’, rejuvenating the area with new trade and employment. But, apart from the homage in name, sadly there’s little else to commemorate what once stood on the site, apart from one small plastic-coated poster:
I’m glad that at least something has been put up as a tribute to the site’s Olympic past. But, considering that the 1948 London Olympics were known as the “Austerity” Games, when rationing after the Second World War was still a way of life for the British, it would have been quite fitting if something more grand (and less like a plastic-coated flyer from a local night club) was put here in the year when London yet again hosts the Olympics during austere times.
It is also a real shame that Olympic organisers didn’t plot a route past the site for the Olympic torch to pass by when it arrives in the borough on the 25th July. The closest the torch will get to the Arena Shopping Park that day is Turnpike Lane which is barely a mile up the road.
#22nd July# The torch passed through neighbouring Hackney on the 21st of July and when it reached the junction of Green Lanes and Lordship Park it too was barely a mile south from the Arena Shopping Park. Oh well. Moan over.
Fascinating posters and photos of events held at the Harringay Arena between the 1930s and 1950s can be found at Harringayonline.com : a fantastic local network site for and by the residents of Harringay (they haven’t given me any money for mentioning them – honest).