Olympian failure

Issue section: 
Issue: 
(325)

When Ken Livingstone lobbied for the 2012 Olympics he argued that the resulting investment was needed desperately by east London, as it had seen none since Victorian times.

Yet the games have received a chorus of damnation in recent weeks. A study by the New Economics Foundation (NEF) thinktank has shown that the regeneration of the East End of London was wishful thinking, at best.

This shouldn't come as a surprise. New Labour tends to see "regeneration" through the prism of how much profit can be made by business, blindfolded by its belief in the "trickledown" system. The report states that the games will mean that small local businesses will be unable to compete with the multinational stampede into east London, while residents will be priced out of the area. Indeed, the 1992 games in Barcelona displaced tens of thousands of low income families, while the 1998 Seoul games displaced 720,000. China is currently going for gold, with an estimated 1.25 million already displaced from Beijing.

Josh Ryan-Collins, the co-author of the NEF report, said, "The regeneration legacy was not just an enlightened addition to the plan for the games - it was central to the bid."

We will be paying more than double what Tessa Jowell, minister for the Olympics, first estimated. The original budget was set at £4 billion, £738 million of which was due from the private sector. The new budget stands at £9.325 billion, with predictions for private investment down to just £165 million. The extra cost will be picked up by direct taxation and the National Lottery - 20 percent of the lottery's total "good cause" budget.

MPs on the Public Accounts Committee last month damned the original budget estimations, saying they "ignored foreseeable major factors" including tax and security. Policing and security costs have risen by £600 million since the original proposals, with the "delivery budget" up from £16 million to £600 million. The bid also omitted a VAT bill of £836 million.

Is it any wonder then, given New Labour's notoriety for its anti-Midas touch on white elephants ranging from Wembley Stadium to the Millennium Dome, that three quarters of British people don't think the Olympics will benefit them?

One of the tests for whether London was to host the games was the level of public support. Perhaps that public support would have been less forthcoming had they known the true cost.