Forty years ago London’s docklands were an industrial wasteland. The shipping companies had moved to deeper waters, factories were left abandoned and poverty was rife.
It’s hard to believe that in just a few weeks the very same East End docks will be transformed into a St Tropez-style luxury marina worthy of the world’s A-list celebrities. The mega-rich and their superyachts are set to descend on the regenerated Docklands for front row seats to the 2012 London Olympics.
And high-end companies are keen to ensure no expense is spared when catering to their every whim. The exclusive experience will include helicopter transfers, speedboat taxis, a specially-constructed beach and even pontoons with private jacuzzis.
“It will be a mini Monaco,” Benjamin Sutton from concierge service MGMT told CNN.
“In terms of location you can’t get any better. We’re opposite the Excel Center which will be hosting the gymnastics, basketball, wrestling. We’re 5 minutes walk from the Thames Cable Car to the O2 Arena in Greenwich. And the Olympic Stadium is a 10 minute drive away.
“We have preferential tickets to first class events like track and field. We tailor the package around the individual qualms of the client. Pretty much whatever they’d expect we can offer.”
The high-end service comes with a price tag to match. Berths are roughly £60 ($90) a meter per day, with a 70-meter superyacht setting you back a whopping £58,000 ($90,000) for two weeks of the Games.
Among the wealthy expected at Wood Wharf, Canary Wharf, St Katharine Docks and Royal Victoria Dock in east London are Chelsea football club owner Roman Abramovich.
The oligarch’s superyacht Eclipse – believed to boast two helicopter pads, 20 jet skis, two swimming pools, hot tubs, a dance floor and a cinema – was previously chartered by music star couple Beyoncé, 30, and Jay-Z, 42.
“There is a rumor that George Clooney will also be arriving on a boat called Sienna,” Benjamin revealed. Though he was quick to add: “But we can’t reveal for sure who is going to be there. Privacy is very important.”
And when the superyacht owners come out to play, nearby restaurant and club Waterside House will be offering them the exclusive, high-end entertainment they’ve come to expect.
A £1,000 membership will get you into the club’s Black Card lounge for the duration of the Games. It includes access to a specially built 60 meter beach and nightclub where DJ Fatboy Slim is expected to perform.
“It means by definition that the rest of the marquee is also extremely exclusive.” Waterside House founder and director Ali Warburton told CNN. “These are very, very high-end clientele. We’ve got Olympic contestants, oligarchs, ambassadors, celebrities and CEOs of some of the largest companies in the world.
“Superyacht owners are all over it. They’re all billionaires and there’s only a certain amount of time they can spend on their boat.”
It’s a dramatic transformation for an area which in the 1970s had become a deserted wasteland. In fact, the grim image of a ruined city was the perfect setting for Stanley Kubrick’s 1987 Vietnam war film Full Metal Jacket.
The docklands had originally secured London’s reputation as a great trading city and by the 1930s was the busiest port in the world. But with the emergence of bigger cargo ships in the 1960s, the shipping industry was forced to move to deep-water ports just outside London in Essex.
By 1980 most of London’s docks were obsolete. And it wasn’t until the London Docklands Development Corporation redeveloped the site in the late 1980s — including the financial hub of Canary Wharf — that the docklands was reborn.
The Olympic makeover is the latest development for this historic East End heartland — one which Benjamin predicts could give it a lasting reputation.
“This is an Olympic-themed platform to launch London as a future destination for superyachts,” he said. “All these boats that used to go to the Med will now see London as a great place to stop off; a new launching pad for Europe.”