The Olympics is a disgraceful waste of money


by Rumbold
23rd December, 2009 at 11:52 am    

The title is hardly news. But watching BBC London news last night just reminded me how much the 2012 Olympics will cost, and how hypocritical its goals are. The occasion, ironically enough, was a press release, disguised as a news story. The story (summary here) celebrated the setting up in poorer countries of sports clubs which are designed to help children stay out of trouble. I heartily approve of this. Any spending of taxpayers’ money on sport should be targeted at the worst off in society, in order to provide them with basic equipment and pitches.

Yet the Olympics is doing the opposite of this. Estimates for its net cost (after ticket sales, land sales, private investment, etc.) are currently running at between £7-16 billion pounds. Little of that money will actually go to those who benefit most from sport (ordinary people), but rather elite athletes, officials and hangers-on. And why should these people receive taxpayers’ and lottery money? They do a job, which many of them get well rewarded for. Let the Olympics pay for itself.

The facilities will not benefit the majority of people, and instead the money should either be given back to its rightful owners, or spent on making sure that more swimming pools aren’t closed down, nor playing fields sold off.


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  1. cjcjc — on 23rd December, 2009 at 4:19 am  

    The title is hardly news

    Alas not.

    Still, might rent my house out to a bigwig…!!

  2. Dalbir — on 23rd December, 2009 at 4:31 am  

    Even the regeneration is a load of bullshit. So far I have met mainly eastern Europeans and Northern twats working in construction on the sites. The locals seem to be getting a raw deal.

  3. Joe — on 23rd December, 2009 at 5:55 am  

    Yeah, but imagine when the Olympics are on, it'll be a right laugh, cheer up.

  4. StLW — on 23rd December, 2009 at 6:06 am  

    First, I declare an interest. Until recently I worked on the project, so whilst perhaps being biased I also have a better understanding of the facts.

    The project will come in under the £9.5bn budget. I agree that's alot of money but hey no government has ever invested any cash in East London – Ken correctly used the lure of the Olympics to actually get gov't to spend some money in east london. Stratford will be THE best connected station in all of London. The site was previously a mishmash of unproductive and illegal uses (although I must admit to enjoying the squat parties there). After the Games the site will offer new homes (including a good percentage of social/affordable) and jobs (which will be available for local people) You only get that because of the Olympics. Think about what would be happening in East London if there was not the Olympics

    Yes the venues will benefit elite athletes after the Games but they will also benefit local communities (Which is why there are two 50m pools in the aquatics centre one elite, one community – and BTW how many 50m pools are there in London – none). The handball arena will become a venue for a variety of community sports and events as will Eton Manor north of the A12. I admit the main stadium is a bit of a quandry.

    The vast majority of lottery money will be paid back from sales of office and homes after the games. The real benefit for local people is not necessarily the jobs now but what jobs are created on the site after the games. I'm not a fan of retail-led regeneration but a shed load of local people will get jobs at Westfield.

    I do however agree that the Olympics will not make us a healthier nation. No previous Olympics has ever had that impact so this is one element that has been completely mis-sold.

    And how the F can selling off playing fields (usually by Tory local authorities) be blamed on the Olympics?

    Such an ill informed, lazy, unresearched, reactionary post. Not what I expect of this site.

  5. damon — on 23rd December, 2009 at 6:10 am  

    I've been against this Olympics thing from day one.
    Mainly because it has Seb Coe running it.

    It's really up in the air (I think) about how this ''legacy'' will work out.
    I can see ''white elephant'' being a distinct possibility.

    The stadium (even scaled down) will seldom be full. Athletics is just not that popular in the UK. Any football team locating there would be consigning their fans to tedious mediocrity as far as a match day would be experienced.

    As for Dalbir's ''eastern Europeans and Northern twats'' … that maybe true, but you have to put yourself foreward to get a job.
    Have east London's Asian community really been trying for those jobs?
    The mucky ones which involve wearing steel toe capped boots and hard hats?

    The Olympics should rotate between a few countries that really want it and have already got the infrastructure in place.
    So how about, Bejing, Sydney, Athens and ….. Rio de Janeiro?
    And leave the rest of the Olympic circus behind.
    It's wasteful and boring (to make such a fuss about two weeks of sport).

  6. Tim Martin — on 23rd December, 2009 at 6:25 am  

    The Olympics will be a great event .75% of money is being spent on regeneration and legacy leaving a wonderfull park shopping centre and sports facilitys and producing many affordable homes in the area .It will also help boost the local econmy by producing many jobs after the games

  7. cjcjc — on 23rd December, 2009 at 6:50 am  

    You mean we can arrange a couple of weeks of sport for less than £9.5bn – wow, kudos to us!

    Though would that be the £9.5bn budget which we were initially told was going to be £4bn??

  8. StLW — on 23rd December, 2009 at 7:19 am  

    cjcjc yeah £9.5bn for two weeks of sport, obviously that's all it's for.

  9. cjcjc — on 23rd December, 2009 at 7:32 am  

    Any comment on the lies we were told about the costs?

  10. StLW — on 23rd December, 2009 at 7:40 am  

    Yup. The final cost of every other Olympic Games was significantly more than the bid price. Its a bit naive to think London would be different. Govt should have been more up front about this most certainly but at the end of the day £9.5bn is being invested in East London (And not, as the post strangely asserts, into the pockets of 'officials') which is sweet FA compared to the sums given to the banks.

  11. Trofim_Vissarionovich — on 23rd December, 2009 at 8:42 am  

    Give me a northern twat over a London twat any time.

  12. Dalbir_S — on 23rd December, 2009 at 12:16 pm  

    As for Dalbir's ''eastern Europeans and Northern twats'' … that maybe true, but you have to put yourself foreward to get a job.
    Have east London's Asian community really been trying for those jobs?
    The mucky ones which involve wearing steel toe capped boots and hard hats?

    Having rubbed shoulders with the northerners quite often 'down the pub', where a large bunch of them are renting rooms, I wouldn't be surprised if asians are avoiding the place as lots of them seem to be backward open racists.

    I can finally see why the BNP are so popular over there.

  13. Don — on 23rd December, 2009 at 12:34 pm  

    I can finally see why the BNP are so popular over there.

    Over where?

    T'north?

  14. Andy Gilmour — on 23rd December, 2009 at 1:02 pm  

    Speaking as someone who used to do 26 hours of training for elite sport every week (I was young and slightly more foolish back then), I entirely agree with Rumbold.

    I'm sure the charities, etc, who've seen their lottery funding diverted to the Olympics are just delighted by the whole affair.

    And it's been most amusing listening to various folk who've come up here to Scotland, trying to placate we rebellious jocks with unsupported assurances of how great the Olympics are going to be for us…and listening to Boris on radio 4 insisting the benefits to “the regions” (he included Scotland & N.Ireland in this particular list) would be without measure, and how grateful we should be for all the effort he & everyone in London were making on our behalf, was the best comedy this side of I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue

  15. Dalbir_S — on 23rd December, 2009 at 2:15 pm  

    Yes, plus I'm in two minds about whether to lump the midlands in with them as well….lol

    Aye pet.

  16. Don — on 23rd December, 2009 at 2:29 pm  

    West Country? East Anglia?

    When you are pissed at points of the compass, it's time to take stock.

  17. Dalbir_S — on 23rd December, 2009 at 2:35 pm  

    Look, don't try and deny that the lumpen sections of northerners are having an affectionate love affair with BNP white supremacist hatemongers and harbour a deep seated visceral hatred of brown people.

  18. lfc4life — on 23rd December, 2009 at 3:11 pm  

    £9-16 billion for several weeks of traffic jams and tory bigwigs laughing all the way to the bank, i am sure the tax paying public can't wait!

  19. Don — on 23rd December, 2009 at 4:31 pm  

    Look, don't try…

    OK, I won't. I'll try to avoid pointing out that you are a simplistic bigot. But you are.

  20. halima — on 23rd December, 2009 at 7:42 pm  

    I am all for the Olympics games coming to London. There's nothing like the hosting of the games that raises the profile and prestige of a city, like all things, it would be really great if the spending could be checked, and the regeneration benefits the local economy as well as their regional/national economies. The UK has been learning considerably on how to plan in sustainable ways to grow and prosper local neighbourhoods while supporting big business, so let's see. Fingers crossed.

  21. damon — on 23rd December, 2009 at 10:10 pm  

    I have to disagree with you there a bit Halima. Who needs their profile and prestige raised?
    Not London. We're already famous enough.
    As for this regeneration. Well I'd like to see it when it's all done. At the moment there is a huge perimeter fence around the whole thing and you can only catch views of it while driving past.
    What will actually emerge after it's all over and done with remains to be seen.

    Tim Martin, you say that it will leave a wonderful park and shopping center and sports facilities. Large landscaped parks can be pretty boring (especially if they are festooned with security cameras and security staff policing them in the way that the Canary Wharf development is policed).
    http://ricecakeconfessional.files.wordpress.com

    Shopping center? Do we really need more? Shopping centers are dull places IMO.
    And as for sports facilities. Well OK. But is attending these centers going to be cheap and accessible for local young people?
    And I've never really liked 50 meter swimming pools. They seem so big and impersonal.
    We should be doing more to save and upgrade existing neighbourhood pools that are closing at quite a rate.
    As for a velodrome cycling track. Who the heck's going to use that?

    As for these jobs that will come with the ''legacy''? Well lots of boring jobs in security for sure.
    And cutting the grass of the parks and all that necessary maintainence work that will go with running these places.
    I bet the teenagers of the East End cant wait till these jobs become available.

    I bet when it's all done, this area will lack vibrancy. It will feel sterile, like the revamped Millennium Dome (O2 Arena) and Wembley stadium.
    These are dull places and rip off the people coming to their events by charging high prices.

  22. Dalbir — on 23rd December, 2009 at 10:43 pm  

    You want to find hordes of simplistic bigots, take a peek at your own without the rose tinted glasses.

    Sorry at having upset you with the revelation.

  23. MiriamBinder — on 23rd December, 2009 at 11:03 pm  

    I have served my time in Community Development and Regeneration and I must agree with Damon. Regeneration rarely turns out to be what it says on the tin.

  24. halima — on 23rd December, 2009 at 11:12 pm  

    “Who needs their profile and prestige raised? Not London. We're already famous enough”.

    We can never be famous enough! Cities like Paris, New York and London can't just stay competitive based on previous fame – cities have to re-invent, re-brand to stay competitive in today's globalised world. Prestige and profile are not guaranteed from current/past efforts, the competition between cities today is more aggressive, sharper, and cities need to be outperforming in niche sectors like sports, arts, and creativity.

    Such regeneration doesn't trickle down to to local neighbourhoods as effectively as it might – so we might focus on getting better accountability for our public funds, improving the decision-making for disbursing such funds, and ultimately ensuring such local economies are revived in sustainable ways and citizenships have a proper stake in the regenerating their towns and cities.

    It's difficult I know, but not impossible. Not with all the clever people and best global talent we have in the UK.

  25. damon — on 24th December, 2009 at 1:33 am  

    ''Competitive''? I didn't know it was a competition.
    Maybe I'm just old fashioned but I really don't care for modern marketing techniques where everything is in the brand.

    ''Brand Beckham'' or Manchester United, or Wembley or the London olympics.

    I prefer things the way they were before. For example, IMO, the Premier League has ruined English football. Everything about it sucks. From it's all seater stadiums and high ticket prices (to feed the wages of the international mercinaries who dominate the league), to the stewarding and control, and drinking and smoking bans at matches.

    Corporate control. It might bring in money from Asia, where images of the likes of Beckham and Ryan Giggs are everywhere … (well in KL anyway), but it reminds me of the 1975 (classic) film Rollerball
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CV9ysMZamxs

  26. Rumbold — on 24th December, 2009 at 3:27 am  

    StLW:

    Most people are saying that predictions about recouping all the money by selling land/buildings are gross overestimates.

    The project will come in under the £9.5bn budget. I agree that's alot of money but hey no government has ever invested any cash in East London – Ken correctly used the lure of the Olympics to actually get gov't to spend some money in east london. Stratford will be THE best connected station in all of London. The site was previously a mishmash of unproductive and illegal uses (although I must admit to enjoying the squat parties there). After the Games the site will offer new homes (including a good percentage of social/affordable) and jobs (which will be available for local people) You only get that because of the Olympics. Think about what would be happening in East London if there was not the Olympics.

    Yes, the Olympics will undoubtably benefit East London. For billions of pounds, I would be shocked if they didn't. But what about all the charities who are having their funding cut/removed to pay for elite athletes and hangers-on? How do they benefit from the Olympics?

    I didn't say the Olympics were to blame for the sale of swimming pools. Rather that money spent on sport should go on providing basic facilities for the masses, not the elite.

    If your projections show that so much money will be recovered after the games by property sales, why aren't private businesses investing more in the Olympics?
    Andy:

    Thanks. Now you know how the English feel (just kidding).

    Halima:

    How does hosting the Olympics make London more globally competitive? Why not spend £3 billion improving public transport, give the same amount to various charities and return the rest to the taxpayers?

  27. halima — on 24th December, 2009 at 3:34 am  

    I mean economic competitiveness. Olympics. Normal Foster's buildings. David Beckham. Tate Modern – talent, ordinary people, it's all of it, raising the profile of Britain. I don't see a problem with it, welcome it, and love it, I think it's great and gives London it's brilliant kite mark .

    Thank you for the link, though can't check as I can't access Youtube at moment.

  28. damon — on 24th December, 2009 at 6:47 am  

    Let's see how it goes Halima. Maybe it will work out well (after some years of bedding in to the wider fabric of London).
    I'm not sure about that ''kite mark'' thing though.

    I think wanting the Olympics (like the Chinese did so much) is a bit like Ireland being so proud to host the Eurovision song contest in 1993 and 94.
    After winning it three years in a row (and then hosting the next years competition as winners) most of the population had twigged that it was actually a spoof contest, and by that time, the country had grown up somewhat and realised that the joke was on whoever took it too seriously.

    To me the olympics is the same.
    Just remember the opening ceremony in Bejing ….. completely camp.
    It was the same with South Korea in 1988. They were mad for it.

    The best thing about the last olympics (IMO) was Boris Johnson and his ''Wiff Waff'' speech.
    ''Wiff Waff's coming home'' he said. That was funny.

  29. Don — on 24th December, 2009 at 8:11 am  

    Damon,

    I think the opening ceremony should consist of a short speech by Boris, a turn by The Brighouse and Rastrick Brass Band and a fly-past of Spitfires. Maybe Stephen Fry reading John Betjeman. Then an early lunch.

  30. damon — on 25th December, 2009 at 1:51 am  

    Yes Don, that's about right.
    But maybe it would be better to have David Brent reading John Betjeman.
    He seems to have him sussed out.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lVr6rFXJg88

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