Tag Archives: Lord Coe

The trial of Lord Coe

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Imagine the scene: the year is 2022, and immediately following the expansion of the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court, a shocked Sebastian Coe is indicted for aiding and abetting ecocide. In the early days of the trial, which begins just three months later, Coe (despite his advanced years) originally appears jaunty. His opening speech reminds the court that the London Olympics organisers repeatedly declared their Games the Greenest ever. And he speaks of the invaluable work done by the London Olympics’ Sustainability Partners. “I did nothing wrong, the Olympics did nothing wrong. This is a politically-motivated trial. But the companies in the dock, if you like, but I should not be here.”

Under cross examination, Coe’s front slowly drops. Taken carefully through the record of the primary Olympic sponsors, Coe is forced to except – on a company by company basis – that they were engaged in ecological vandalism.

The first morning of the cross-examination is given over to the activities of BP, the Olympic Games’ nominated “Sustainability Partner” and “Official Carbon Offset Partner”. Long before the Games opened, Coe grudgingly accepts, he personally was well aware of the part played by BP in the 2010 Deepwater Horizon drilling disaster, in which around 200 million gallons of crude oil were released into the marine environment of the Gulf of Mexico, killing sea-life in untold numbers. Shown image after image of dying birds, dead fish, ruined seascapes, Coe finally pleads for the images to stop. “Yes, I knew about Deepwater. Everyone did.” “It was the worst oil pollution in the history of the world and your response was to choose BP as a sustainability partner?” Coe shakes his head, mute.

The prosecution moves on to BP’s involvement in the mining of the Canadian Tar Sands. “We now know that by 2012 these alone were responsible for 10% of Canada’s carbon emissions; they kept the world’s car economy going beyond peak oil; and you made BP you Carbon Offset Partner?” Again, Coe declines to answer.

In the afternoon, the prosecution moves on to the other major sponsors of the games.

Dow Chemical had produced the poison gas used at Auschwitz. Its subsidiaries were responsible for the 1984 Bhopal Oil disaster which killed around 25,000 people in India. “I had heard about Deepwater, you couldn’t miss that”, Coe answers, “but by 2012 we considered Bhopal very old news.” The poison was still responsible for birth defects and premature deaths by the time of London 2012, the prosecution counters. “I was a sports administrator”, Coe says, “I knew the length of the track, and how to build a games. Neither I, nor I suspect anyone involved in administering London, gave a first thought to Bhophal.”

“They were your sponsors. You chose them. They were part of the public face of your Games.” Coe, again, refuses to answer.

Rio Tinto, the source of the gold, silver and bronze medals, had mined them in Utah, in a factory whose pollution caused hundreds of deaths each year. Coca-Cola and MacDonalds, the prosecutor continues, were largely responsible for the epidemic of obesity overtaking North America. “You personally authorised the largest the building of the MacDonalds in the world, right in the middle of the athletes’ village.”

In his opening, Coe had referred to the activities of the Olympic Delivery Authority which held annual safety, health and environmental awards, to show that the Games was beyond serious rebuke. Coe is now shown a list of the main prize winners at these “green” awards. One winner, BAM Nuttall, was a member of the construction industry covert blacklist, Coe accepts, while other blacklisters, including Carillion and McAlpine, were also involved in building the main Olympic sites.

Under further questioning Coe accepts that the Olympics games were seen worldwide by a population of billions, that the sponsors logos were ubiquitous in television coverage. He accepts that millions of people were encouraged to believe that the companies associated with the Games were themselves ethical. “And they were right to think so. If we hadn’t believed that ourselves, we would not have allowed them to be our sponsors.”

It is put to Coe that involvement in the Olympics “green-washed” companies such as BP, it bought them time, and held off the day when their crimes would be prosecuted. “You are not asking me now are you”, he counters, “to endorse their prosecutions, or my own?”

What about Meredith Alexander, the Games’ appointed “Ethics Tsar”, who resigned six months before the Games, in protest at the involvement of these polluters: didn’t her departure cause the organisers to re-think? “No”, Coe answers, “by that point we were bound by contractual arrangements with BP and others, we discussed breaking them, but the penalty clauses would have been onerous. You may criticise us, but we didn’t draft the contracts. The Games might have lost money. That would have been unacceptable.”

The prosecutor interrupts, “But you were already losing money at a colossal rate. When you won the bid, you said their budget would be £2 billion. By the Games itself, this had gone up to £23 billion, half of which was coming from general taxation.”

“Yes, I know that”, Coe says, “We were way over budget, and I didn’t want it to get any worse. Please, I’ve had to answer all your questions, let me explain in my own words” Allowed to continue by the Court, Coe sets out for the first time, what will turn out over succeeding weeks to be the central plank of his defence: “I know it is difficult after all these years, but you have to think back to the very different world in which we were operating. It was 2012, we were looking for sponsors. We needed to raise large sums of money. The distribution of wealth was much more concentrated then than it is now. The only available companies, capable of raising the tens of millions we wanted were large companies.”

“You have pointed out the poor environmental record of BP,” Coe continues, “but every large corporation at that time was joined to the same networks. They cross-invested. There was barely a company on the London Stock Exchange that wasn’t involved in mining, oil extraction, or military-related technology. Who else could we have gone too? You can criticise the London Organisers, but in 2012 every international sporting event was being organised in exactly the same way. We were the very most typical expression – no better, no worse than anyone else – of the capitalist economy of our time.”

 [first published in Socialist Lawyer, July 2012]

How much is Seb Coe paid?

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How much is Seb Coe paid for fronting up the Games? I should preface the following remarks by saying that I have no objection in principle to the idea that he should be paid something. He is not (in contrast to his fellow London Organising Committee (LOCOG) board member Lord Moynihan) a third-tier sportsman who has been over-promoted solely for reason of past service to the Tory party. Coe, who received his peerage before the Olympic bid, did of course also have a long and undistinguished career with the Conservatives, but he is where he is primarily because he is an Olympic gold-medallist and a multiple world-record-breaker, and the former holder of one of the greatest world records of all time (the 800 metre record set at Florence which lasted until 1997). By all accounts he works very hard indeed; and it seems generally accepted by people who followed the process closely that the 2005 speech he made to the IOC was instrumental in swinging the Olympic Games London’s way.

Seb Coe controls a large organisation with a significant budget. I would consider him at least as socially useful (say) as the head teacher of a large secondary school, or the vice chancellor of a modest university, and if the total amount of money that he was set to make from the Games was comparable to other public sector managers of that standing, I would see no reason in posting about it. But he is being paid rather more than that:

First, Seb Coe draws from LOCOG an annual salary of £357,000 p/a (2010-2011). This is determined by LOCOG’s remuneration committee, attended by Coe and five other LOCOG committee members. It met just twice in 2011. (The details of this salary are available in LOCOG’s accounts).

Second, according to his entry in the House of Lords Register of Interests, Coe has a a number of paid directorships, etc:

  • Non-executive Director, AMT-Sybex Group Ltd (which sells software to energy and transport businesses)
  • 0800 Reverse Limited 0800 Reverse Ltd (this appears to be a company marketing a “Battleship”-style gambling game)
  • Consultant, Chelsea Football Club
  • Speaking engagements (4 of these in the last 12 months) (Coe markets himself as a public speaker and can be booked through The Edge agency for c£10,000 per evening (Dwain Chambers gives the figure in his autobiography). This is relevant to Coe’s public activities, because the topics he speaks to (Leadership, The Art of Winning, Formulating the Perfect Team) relate to his present, publicly-funded role as Chairman of London 2012, not his past life as a private athlete.)
  • Seb Coe Health Clubs – Jupiter Hotels (he owns a number of health clubs in Leeds, Bolton, Kidderminster, etc)
  • Special Adviser, Nike International

According to the Register, Coe pays all remuneration from these sources into a company The Complete Leisure Group Limited of which he is the Sole Director.

The Complete Leisure Group appears to be a successor to “Seb Coe Ltd” (see below).

Tax

There is also the interesting question of whether he has been paying tax at the correct amount.

Just concentrating on Seb Coe Ltd first.

What the above figures appear to show is that in the two years in question (1 Jan 2007 – 31 Dec 2008) Coe was paid (ie received into his bank accounts) a total of £634,754.

Of this he has declared (just under) £20,000 as profit, and paid tax only on this smaller figure.

How did he do this? In 2008 Coe spent £41,760 on administering this company (i.e. presumably his accountant’s fee, and maybe some other similar disbursements), but in 2007 his “administrative expenses” were a whopping £587,359.

In essence, these administrative expenses have been set against both year’s income, turning a series of very high salaries into a very low profit.

It would be interesting to know why the administrative expenses were so much higher in one year than another. To my untrained eye (and as a non-accountant), the higher figure gives every appearance of an artificially generated tax loss.

I’ve attached the full accounts here for 2008 so that readers can read them for themselves. If there is a benign explanation, please do set it out in the comments box.

Now, when Seb Coe Ltd became the Complete Leisure Group here was a considerable change in the accounting model, which now confirms to those of a larger and more complex business than anything I’ve seen at first hand. Just to give one indication of its size, one of the business’s acts in 2010 was to write off £3 million in capital:

It “may” be that this figure of £3 million corresponds broadly to the real salary that Coe is now paying himself; but I’d be lying if I pretended to have the knowledge of high-end accounting to say this with any conviction.

I’ve attached the full accounts here for 2010; comments invited in the box below.

London 2012: The Security Games

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In 2006, when there was a serious debate as to whether the UK’s should renew its Trident nuclear submarines, one of the most common arguments made against renewal was simply the anachronism of the supposed deterrent. In an age of terrorism and “asymmetrical warfare”, what was the point of retaining a weapon which was only capable of being used against a state?

It appears that no-one told Lords Coe or Moynihan, whose plans for the protection of the Olympics games comprise not merely the £284 million payday for G4S, but also the deployment of 13,500 ground troops, several typhoon jets, and two assault warships (HMS Ocean, and HMS Bulwark).

Even poor Trenton Oldfield, the Van der Lubbe of the Occupy movement (“If you are a taxi driver can you take the passenger the slowest possible and most expensive route?”) has been dragged into this.

Lord Moynihan was on Radio 5 on Sunday, talking up the threat of disruption to the Olympics and the need therefore for the present plans: “It just takes, and is likely to be, one idiot. It’s not likely to be a well-orchestrated campaign through Twitter or websites. It is likely to be someone similar to the idiot yesterday who causes major disruption. That is why all the security measures need to be put in place to minimise the chance of that happening.”

Now Colin Moynihan, despite the millions in taxpayers’ money he has been paid since the London bid as Chairman of the British Olympic Association is notoriously not the smartest even within the set of 50-something former career Tories. So, in case one of his advisers should stumble across this blog, I’ll go through this as simply as I can:

  • It’s true isn’t it that HMS Ocean is an amphibious attack vessel?
  • That means, it was built to attack and occupy land overseas, wasn’t it?
  • It is the largest boat in the British Navy, isn’t it?
  • Given its actual military capabilities HMS Ocean couldn’t have stopped Trenton Oldfield, could it?
  • And if it couldn’t have stopped Trenton Oldfield; it’s not going to be much use in stopping “one idiot” in the summer, is it?