DateWednesday 29 November 2006

A little more Olympics (bear with me, watch the bollards)

So, with the budget having somehow quadrupled, what does Hugh Muir in (I blush) the Guardian suggest?

And so to money. Is there anyone who doesn’t think we submitted a bid with figures massaged to impress the IOC, or that the IOC didn’t know that?

Er, me, actually, and pretty much everyone who last year on the TV and so on was burbling about the £2 billion cost of the Games.

A meaningful budget is now being drawn up

Oh well, that’s helpful, isn’t it? Will this one include VAT?

and when it is unveiled politicians and the media will scrutinise it. So they should. But let’s be mature about it. Staging the games will be messy, costly and turbulent, but isn’t that a price worth paying if it means that shamefully neglected communities will have better infrastructure and life chances than they have had for generations?

As the comments after the article say – no, it flipping isn’t. If you want regeneration, why not just pay for it because you think the area deserves regeneration – not using some idiotic flatulent games in the wrong place. Flipping heck, Manchester would have been the perfect place for it. Always assuming they’d got rid of the bollards from hell. Watch them in action:

And then Ken Livingstone weighs in. Nobody thought the congestion charge would work, he says. (I did, actually, Ken. It seemed an obvious and brilliant way to apply road charging.) Everyone still asks: why not just regenerate the place? And nobody answers.

The athletic Iraq: why the Olympics make me feel like Cassandra

Last year, I wrote some unkind things in mid-2005 about the Olympics: making points such as

  • how weird it was that nobody asked the “Yes, but” questions before the Olympic bid (July 6 2005):

    is it just me or is it weird to be listening to the 1 O’Clock News and hear the interviewer start asking questions to the MP for Newham, such as “Won’t you be left with a lot of white elephant stadiums afterwards? I mean that’s what has happened at all the other places..” and to get interviewees saying “I’m not really sure that’s the best use of £2.4 billion…”

    Where were all these people before? Steamrollered into submission, told to keep a lid on it until the bid was over?

  • that ads in its favour were from vested interests like airlines and construction companies (June 17 2005):

    If London is cursed by winning the Olympics, those companies will get pots of money – travellers coming here, and of course all those stadia that will have to be built on the recently-levelled spaces where people used to live but have been rehoused. (Has anyone mentioned this? No?)

    So you know why the companies are in favour of the Olympics: whoever loses, they win. Hence, they advertise, and urge people who haven’t heard any sides of the argument to “Back the Bid” and text their “backing” to some daft number. No number to text your opposition to, you’ll notice.

    And about the losers: ah yes, that would be all the people who live in London. Because if Seb Coe succeeds, then they’ll all get higher council taxes to pay for the “regeneration” (more like, to line the construction companies’ pockets). And that’s about it. Given that they don’t really want the stadia, though they’d like better rail and public transport services, Londoners don’t really have any reason to like this bid, in my opinion.

  • that we needed (and got) a Stop The Bid site (Jan 22 2005), much good it did us:

    I don’t want London put into hock and the lives of millions of ordinary people upset for a reality TV event involving celebrities and micro-celebrities and non-celebrities who may or may not have taken drugs, in order eventually to provide a load of training facilities that will be in the wrong part of the country for the majority of athletes

  • that getting the Olympics will destroy Hackney Marshes (Jan 5 2005), where the marvellous Blur-soundtracked Nike football ad was filmed (can I get a YouTube link? Can I?):

    It’ll leave the city hugely indebted (the Games always do), and won’t really provide the sort of facilities that allow up-and-coming athletes need – which is a wide variety of sports facilities. The really good will soon excel and can then be picked to compete and train at a higher level, at better facilities which don’t have to be in London. Plus what about the adults? Aren’t we trying to keep them fit, to avoid the Evil Of Obesity?

Since then, what has happened? The alleged costs have ballooned, by at least 17.5% – oh, yeah, sorry, VAT, must have forgotten, silly me! Still now you’ve signed the contract, sorry, for cash, what? – towards £8 billion (shall we say that again? Quadruple what was being said 18 months ago)and finally, some commentators are starting to pick up on it. Andrew Rawnsley suggests it will be another Dome:

Who in their right mind is going to want to holiday in London in the congestion and security hell that will be the capital city in the August of 2012?

Just as with the dome, supporters of the Olympics say they will regenerate part of London. I’m all for the regeneration of the East End, but you didn’t need to do it by bringing this overblown, ludicrously expensive spectacle to town.

Thanks, Andrew (via John Naughton); I feel like you’re channeling me. What makes me so silently angry on behalf of Londoners is the fact that they were never consulted; nobody told them the costs; nobody made the case publicly. It was imposed, by a quango of people looking to benefit in their own way from the money-go-round, not truly improving the daily life of poeple who live in this giant city. No wonder that Roy Greenslade said of a recent speech by Seb, sorry, Sir Seb coe that

Sebastian Coe, chairman of the 2012 Olympics organisation, spoke without imparting a single intelligent thought. I tried to take notes but he said nothing of any consequence whatsoever, and he said it several times over. It was unrelieved by wit or wisdom and was heard in total silence by a now disbelieving crowd…

Could it be because there’s nothing to say? Even if the Olympic Games pass off successfully (though you know the papers will be full of tales of incomplete stadia and things not done; they are at every Games, and we excel here at finding fault with the tiniest thing), their aftermath will be judged as a pain. Will they make more athletes? Will they make better athletes? What are the Games meant to do for us as a nation? Apart from move our urban furniture around to places we didn’t want it so the kids could try to get around the room without touching the floor?

Don’t get me wrong: I love sport, and exercise. But this behemoth that we can’t back out of is going to make a lot of people very, very unhappy. Trouble is, there’s no exit strategy for the Olympics. You just have to wait for them to end. Maybe I’ll start a “countdown until it’s over” clock in the sidebar.