London 2012. There have been signs for a while. The stadium build, the advert not suitable for epilepsy sufferers, THAT logo, the alien mascots and the gigantic malfunctioning countdown clock. It’s crept up quickly, a bit too quickly for my liking. As a part-time resident of suburban London with only a token interest in sport, I’m a bit anti-London 2012. I feel my take on the proceedings is realistic and fair, although admittedly if I’d got tickets to men’s diving and swimming I might be a little bit more excited.
The first thing I think BoJo and his clan of Olympic planners may have lost sight of is that the Olympic Games are a two week affair. Fourteen days. The Paralympic Games are a further twelve days at the end of the summer. So based on the nine billion pound budget, which looks likely to be overshot, the spectacle is costing around £350m per day of actual sporting events. Gulp. One justification of the spending is the new jobs it’s creating. Yes, for the run-up and the fortnight itself. But what happens then?
The £9bn is being spent on security, public transport, advertising and building in the capital, at the expense of other parts of the country. According to the BBC, government travel expenditure is currently £2700 per person per year for Londoners, but just £5 per person per year for those living in the North East. This discrepancy is due in part to extra Olympic spending. Paula Radcliffe commented recently that the decision to double spend on the Opening and Closing ceremonies was ‘frivolous’ in a recession.
Despite the gigantic expenditure, UK residents were allocated just 6.6 million tickets to the events. Twenty million applications for seats were received – and so commenced ‘The Ticket Scandal’. The biggest winners were those who were prepared to gamble, applying for thousands of pounds worth of tickets in the hope of acquiring a few. Those who lost out - the majority - will be watching the events on TV instead, as they have done in previous years when the Games were hosted in Beijing or Athens. To add insult to injury, only ticketholders have access to the Olympic Park, meaning those who lost out can’t even go along to experience the Olympic atmosphere during the festive fortnight.
Not that the overall experience will be much better if you are one of the lucky few holding a ticket. Ticketholders will have to endure endless pushing and shoving to get to the Olympic Park on time by train, and London taxi drivers are set to increase their fares for the period. A map of ‘hotspots to avoid’ has been released to encourage regular commuters to alter their routes to work for the fortnight. But even if every commuter does, there will still be ticketholders, stadium volunteers, security personnel and 24,000 extra military personnel heading to the park in the morning. Just when you thought the Jubilee Line couldn’t get any busier.
I don’t find myself saying this often, but in this case, I’d have preferred the football. Hosting the 2018 World Cup would have been better for the UK as a whole, not just London in particular, and the stadiums are all built and ready, across the country, rather than congested in the capital. I know England lost out to Qatar, but you never know – maybe the UK bid would have been stronger without us having to fund 2012 first. We could always have used some of the money to bribe the FIFA officials...
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not skipping town when the Olympics roll in. I’ll be watching to see how everything pans out and I’m looking forward to the Torch coming to Brighton, my second home. But I just can’t help highlighting the negatives, especially when they are so staggeringly plentiful.