x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Poorest Britons scoff at Olympics

No patriotic surge amid hopelessness of housing estates.

LONDON // While much of Britain glows with pride at what is likely to be its best medal tally at the Olympics, there is little sign of celebration in one of London's most deprived neighbourhoods.

In the Pembury housing estate, where a year ago masked youths attacked police officers and set cars alight during Britain's worst riots in a quarter of a century, the national team's success has been noted but has done little to relieve the grind of poverty.

"I am proud of Team GB but the Olympics are the Olympics and most of the kids round here don't have no jobs," said Malkit Singh, 22, who has been on state benefit for four years.

"They don't have a lot to look forward to or to brighten their future," said Mr Singh. "I'm searching for a job but can't find one."

Sporting fever has swept much of Britain in recent days as Britain has shot to third place in the Olympic medal tally. "Hep, hep hooray," declared the best-selling Sun newspaper after Jessica Ennis won the heptathlon on a gold-rush Saturday that saw six British golds, the country's biggest single-day haul since 1908.

But on the Pembury estate in Hackney, the main topics of conversation are a lack of jobs or hope and overzealous policing - the main reasons residents cite for the unrest that made their estate a symbol of "broken Britain".

Despite attempts to improve the area by cracking down on drugs gangs, youths in masks went on the rampage last August following riots in nearby Tottenham that started after a peaceful protest against the killing of a 29-year-old local man by police.

Police blamed gangs, while politicians decried wanton criminality and newspapers referred to Britain's "feral youth" - angry, alienated, poor, and up for the chance to loot a few LCD TVs and pairs of expensive trainers.

Decades of British politicians have grappled with what to do about the alienated urban poor who depend on benefits but feel they get little from London's position as a financial capital for the international rich.

"I don't think the kids here give a damn about these Olympics or who wins the medals - these Games are not for people like us," said Ian, who has been living in Hackney for 38 years and refused to give his second name.

"They are nearby, yes, but that is because there was some space nearby. The kids I see and know don't care about Team GB."

Up to a third of young people in Hackney are unemployed. For some, drugs and crime are a career choice.

"The kids here don't feel [anything] because the drugs they are smoking are too strong even for me to smoke," said Darren Coyle, 38, begging on the streets near Hackney Central accompanied by his stocky terrier, Angel.

"I mean that seriously ... It doesn't really relate to them," said Mr Coyle.