Greyhounds

Regeneration came five years too late for much-loved Hackney Wick

Lost Tracks RSS / / 06 November 2007 / Leave a Comment

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In the last instalment of his three-part series Darrell looks at the fate of Hackney since the Olympics was awarded to east London

For a greyhound track in financial trouble the period just after Christmas is when it's at its most vulnerable, and so it sadly proved for Hackney (or the London Stadium as it had become).

The realisation that the dream of a super stadium to take the sport towards the new millennium was over had arrived just two meetings into 1997, and on 4th January the state of the art grandstand closed its doors. It had always been a case of when, and not if, the venture would end, and while the business had survived the lucrative Christmas period of 1996, its early January closure came as little surprise. The 'new' Hackney had lasted little more than 14 months.

But if greyhound racing thought that was the last it would hear of the East London track then it was to be proved wrong. Various stories about the redevelopment of the site to include a multiplex cinema and the like had been circulating for a while, but it was to be another four years before the story 'Hackney is to re-open' hit the headlines in early 2001.

The sale of the stadium after the previous owners had been denied planning permission led to suggestions that greyhound racing could resume again within three months via a leasing arrangement with an existing promoter. Speculation developed as to who might take up the gauntlet with the names of the GRA, BS Group and various bookmaker chains all put into the mix. With the fast M11/A12 link road having been built close by since the track's closure, and with the main East stand remaining virtually intact, there appeared a real chance that Hackney could once again be back in the game.

While the rumours continued for sometime, the sad fact that greyhound racing would not return finally became reality with the arrival of the bulldozers in late 2003. The purchase of the land to form part of the development for the 2012 Olympic Games, pending a then successful London bid, meant the clearance of the site for safety reasons. One of greyhound racing's most popular venues and its sixty six years of history had been reduced to a pile of rubble.

Joyous celebrations came in July 2005 to herald the announcement that the Olympics were coming to London, with the site of the former Hackney Stadium set to be the centrepiece of a new Olympic Stadium. A multi-sport complex including four indoor arenas to cater for basketball, volleyball, handball as well as a velodrome is due to occupy the land formerly used for greyhound racing.

The regeneration of London's East End is now full speed ahead for the Olympic Games in less than five years time. Regrettably for all the investment and hope that the Olympics brings to the area even the very slimmest chance of greyhound racing returning to Hackney is impossible to contemplate. The biggest regret for those who loved Hackney is that the building of the new stadium probably came five years too early, before the necessary transport links and associated redevelopments had been put into place, giving it little chance of ever succeeding.

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