LONDON – Memo to Brazil: That idea of putting up a giant Jesus statue in a London park to promote the 2016 Olympic Games is not going over well.
Brazil's tourist board has floated the notion of erecting a 30-foot replica of Rio de Janeiro's Christ the Redeemer statue — a symbol of peace and a well-known landmark of the city — on Primrose Hill.
Malcolm Kafetz, the chair of the Friends of Primrose Hill, said the objections had nothing to do with religion.
"We oppose it on the grounds that we don't want any advertising in the royal parks," he said. "Otherwise we'll have Coca-Cola there soon enough."
Some residents weren't receptive to the idea.
"The neighborhood is not going to accept that," said America Martinez, a grandmother out walking her dog on a chilly London afternoon.
The Camden New Journal newspaper first reported that local authorities had been approached to consider the idea of putting up the statue on Primrose Hill — a posh neighborhood that is home to film stars like Jude Law and Gwyneth Paltrow — timing it to the 2012 Olympics Games in London. Though no formal proposal has been offered, many residents said they found the notion absurd.
Cinematographer Per Tingleff laughed at the thought of how the local resident association would react — never mind trying to persuade park governors.
"Good luck with that," he said, noting that he's had personal experience of the bureaucracy involved with asking the Royal Parks for permission to use the city's green spaces.
The tourism board seemed stunned by the negativity. After all, the statue idea was just that — an idea. They pointed to a statement from last week in which they underlined that Christ the Redeemer was only one of several ideas on the drawing board.
"We are surprised to see this story in the news as this is only a concept that was being considered as part of a wider platform of promotional activities for Embratur (the Brazilian Tourism Board) and the Brazilian government for 2012, when the focus moves from London to Rio," the board said in a statement.
They declined to respond further — or to say whether they were planning to press on with the idea and present it formally to local officials.
As news of the idea filtered through Primrose Hill, eyebrows were raised. The idea seemed to mix with a general malaise about the Olympics themselves, which are considered by some to be too costly for Britain in a time of economic downturn.
Tim Boyd, 53, was among many who just thought it all too much.
"I don't agree with the Olympics anyway," he said.