Home Page A day for showing off the best that we can do 17/06/12

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Matthew Hancock
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Hart of the Matter

Are you fed up with the Olympics yet? Just you wait – the Euro Championship football is just around the corner. Or is it the other way around?


Holding the settee down during all this summer’s sporting action is such a tiring job, I’m already beginning to wilt and lose all sense of reality. The other day I had this really weird dream that England were on the brink of qualifying for the latter stages of a major international competition – it doesn’t get more disturbing than that.


So, what can you do if you want to get away from it all? Well, in the past, Haverhill was not a bad destination for that. Apart from TV football in the pubs, it is not a place with significant national sporting connections, or large numbers of star participants.


We have a few stars in less well-known areas of sporting activity – areas which have become much more well-known here because someone has reached the top level in that particular sport. Wheelchair basketball springs to mind, because of our Paralympian, Caroline MacLean.


There was modern pentathlon a few years ago, when we had a star performer from a nearby village – I think it was Weston Colville.


But you get my drift. Haverhill is not a place which often makes a mark on the national stage through the achievements of one of its sons or daughters. We’ve never had a footballer or cricketer play for England, to the best of my knowledge.


The closest connection with stardom in the areas of our national sport would be that Withersfield genes appear to have supplied the greatest batsman ever to play the game – sadly, by then the family had moved to Australia and Sir Donald Bradman just tormented our best.


Back in 1936, an athlete from Sturmer, Gordon Rampling, was one of the gold medallists in the 4x400m relay at the Berlin Olympics, under the nose of Herr Hitler. Imagine the hype around here if we had someone in line for anything as big as that now!


So you might think Haverhill would again be a good place to get away from it all. Happily for us (sadly for you, maybe) you’d be wrong, because the Olympic bandwagon is due to roll into the town on Saturday, July 7, at 2.39pm.


The Olympic Torch will arrive, in a truck, and be released and carried along crowd-lined streets by eleven torchbearers, including the aforesaid Caroline and teenager Izzy Gower, as well as various other randomly-selected people including a couple of Chinese.


From the evidence of other similar towns where the Torch has already passed through, we might expect 25,000 to 30,000 people to descend on the town for this once-in-a-lifetime event.


That is a phenomenon in itself, but it is also a huge opportunity and a bit of a risk as well. The opportunity arises for any businesses that are even vaguely within sight of the route to shout their wares, as it were, to a wider audience (or market, as we say in business) than ever before.


Already the call has gone out that business people should be getting ready for this as fast as they can go, and last week there was even a ‘Make Sure You’re Ready Day’ across Suffolk.


The risk, of course – and I’m sure we will avoid it because Haverhill is such a can-do place – is that not a lot happens in the town apart from loads of people flooding in and going away with the impression that this is a pretty dead-and-alive place not worth visiting again.


So it behoves everyone to get off their seats and produce a great big Haverhill welcome for all the visitors. Presumably, most of these visitors will arrive by car, as public transport has its limitations and there is no railway. Therefore the first impression will be the car parks.


So, what do we think? If you arrived in Haverhill for the first time ever for this big event, what impression would the town’s car parks send out to you? How easily would you be able to find your way to a good vantage point? What would you see on the way and how would it impress you?


For instance, would you have to make your way along a shady and rather dodgy-looking alleyway? As you walked along, surrounded, presumably, by jubilation, would you think to yourself: ‘Hm, I don’t think I’d fancy coming here at night.’?


How clean will the town look? How much litter will there be about? This is Saturday afternoon, remember, and the market will be on the square, not in the street, for obvious reasons.


When the Torch has gone by, are you likely to feel a bit peckish, or thirsty, after all that cheering? How easy will it be to find somewhere attractive to eat, or a neat, clean and orderly pub to get a drink?


Will you want to do any shopping afterwards? If so, how easy is it to find the main shops and how tidy will the streets look then?


When you get back to your car, how easy will it be to find your way to the road home? This is one of my personal bugbears in towns and cities. They direct you to the car parks okay, but when you come to the exit there is no indication whatever of which way to turn to find the road you want.


We are on show that day, so let’s hope everyone is very aware of that, and how beneficial – or damaging – it can be.

David Hart
David Hart revives his personal take on the week in Haverhill, covering everything from major town developments to what we do with our rubbish.
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