The Olympic bid – is anyone still celebrating?
The Olympics came in under Labour’s watch. They were supervised by a Labour Prime Minister, and a Labour Mayor of London. In lots of ways, their presentation was as a social democratic Games. In London’s Olympic bid, two themes stood out. The first was that the world was already in London; and that this most diverse of cities would put on a multicultural games. The other element was “legacy”: more people would do more sport if the Games came to London rather than Paris. More working class communities would gain more amenities than if the Games went elsewhere.
The problem is that the Games have concentrated opportunity upwards, diminishing the chances open to the majority.
Even Sport England reports that fewer young people are doing sport in Britain now than in 2005; and this is not surprising when you consider how the Olympics has resulted in a marked decrease of funding for non-elite sports. It is extraordinary to think that with the Atherton leisure closing there are now fewer sporting facilities in the Olympic boroughs than there were when the bid succeeded.
As for other opportunities, arts funding in London generally is down, as the Cultural Olympiad gobbles up resources which were not previously the sole reserve of tourists.
The East End has seen a population transfer as high land prices have caused landlords to evict poor private-sector tenants, and the East End boroughs have solved their housing waiting lists by moving families out of the borough, and in some instances out of London altogether.
Newham teenagers meanwhile are subject to a dispersal notice banning them from their own borough.
So what will Newham residents get from the Games? The only tangible benefit that most people will see, even Locog is increasingly willing to admit, is the Westfield shopping centre: a giant, enclosed private space, claustrophobic, and run in a paranoid manner, and full of top-end fashion units, which won’t be there 6 months after the Games ends.
The lack of any positive legacy is another good reason to demonstrate on July 28: