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Olympics is no celebration for one Londoner

Gideon Mendel / Corbis for NBC News

A patriotic canal boat resident along with his dog on his vessel covered in both union flag of Britain and the England flag close to the main site of the 2012 Olympic Games.


A diverse community in East London will welcome the world to Britain for the 2012 Olympic Games. Meet residents and hear how they feel about having a huge, world stage in their backyard.

Photojournalist Gideon Mendel says he's London's last cynic in a city overtaken by Olympic spirit. It's not for lack of proximity to the events -- he lives in the East End, within three miles of the main venues.

In the spring, he photographed his neighborhood for NBCNews.com before the world focused its attention on the place. He had mixed feelings about the coming event. He worried about the character of his working-class neighborhood changing, but also relished the idea of such an international event coming to his very diverse, multicultural neighborhood.

He found artists creating works both for and against the games. Nearby canals were cleaned up and roads repaired. Businesses anticipated a potential boom, while others who had to re-locate due to the Olympic village construction faced challenges they couldn't have predicted after decades of being in business.

Gideon Mendel / Corbis for NBC News

A security guard mans his station on the River Lea close to the site of the 2012 Olympic Games (the stadium can be seen in the distant background). This is the point from which all navigation has been blocked on the river as security measure during the games.

He and his family braced for the worst. The weekend the Games began, Mendel and his sons left town to attend a music festival hours away, in part to avoid the Olympics fervor. When they returned, daily routines like his wife's work commute were planned carefully around expected crowds.

Gideon Mendel / Corbis for NBC News

A family dressed in bizarre patriotic morph suits take part in a parade at Camp Bestival. Their costume is part of their support for the 2012 Olympic Games which they had watched on a giant screen on the previous evening.This music festival takes place at Lulworth Castle in Dorset.

Instead, they found London "a dream" to get around, with less traffic than expected and better commute times than usual. His immediate neighborhood is business as usual. But as he rides his bike nearer the venues, the streets and parks just to the west of the newly constructed Olympic stadium are oddly...empty. With most Olympic tourists being directed east to the major commuter hub of Stratford station, and security measures blocking some streets, canals and bike paths to the west of the Olympic Park, there is an unexpected quietness. Cafe owners lament the lack of business; giant viewing screens in parks sometimes go unwatched.

Gideon Mendel / Corbis for NBC News

A relaxed scene at Haggerston Park in Hackney, East London, as a relatively small group enjoys watching the 2012 Olympic Games on a big screen. At the time they were watching the tennis mixed doubles tournament.

What next for the East End? After a recent trip that kept him away from the neighborhood for three weeks, Mendel noticed his long-time home changed even in that short amount of time, with new stores and restaurants popping up. While the once poor neighborhood has been gentrifying for years, he senses the Olympics has accelerated the process.

More news from the Olympics:

Who'll win gold medal for partying? Olympians let their hair down

Olympic hosts: Londoners open their homes to the world

Christians, Muslims and even a 'vegan turkey' seek converts at London 2012

Race to London's Olympic Park: Fastest way is ... ?

Will Games curse leave 'ghost town' London out of the gold rush?

Full coverage in London 2012: Hosting the Games

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