Athens got some new ones. So did Sydney. Beijing got some terrific ones. Delhi got in on the act and threw up some impressive ones albeit with just days to spare. South Africa recently built or renovated ten of them. Dubai just can’t stop building them. London got a new one at Wembley and Cardiff got one to celebrate the new millennium. Now Liverpool FC have new owners, they also want a new one. After all, Manchester City have a relatively new one, as do Arsenal. And with the 2012 Olympics on the near horizon, London is currently building itself a whole lot more of them. You would be forgiven for thinking that building new sports stadiums was the answer to humanity’s problems. Everyone is at it. You can bet your last dollar that as we speak, Brazil is up to their necks in the damn things.

 

The one word that seems to unite this frenzy of stadia building is that magic, all encompassing concept, REGENERATION. Every single city that has bid to host one of the global sporting jamborees has trumpeted the regeneration benefits associated with building new stadiums. Not withstanding the fact of wholesale clearances of already destitute communities, to god knows where, to make room for these new, shiny beacons of regeneration, we are told it is all worth while because the whole area/city/ country will benefit hugely from the follow-up regeneration. Poverty, homelessness, unemployment, will be a thing of the past. These stadiums represent a new dawn and we should be very grateful. Compulsory purchase and other government legislation and police muscle can deal with the tiny lunatic fringe who are just too pig headed to show their gratitude.

Being somewhat swept up myself in the euphoria of stadium building and the subsequent regeneration that it would automatically bring, I was shocked and appalled to learn from Marina Hyde (The Guardian 14/10/10) that I, along with millions of others, might just be the victim of a gigantic scam. Hyde, who is rapidly getting herself a healthy reputation for thought provoking sports journalism, had this to say on the matter;

‘Alas, the modern orthodoxy that building sporting infrastructure is an engine of economic growth is deeply questionable in practise.’

I was mortified. Surely there was not some Machiavellian scheme by architects, builders and finance corporations to hoodwink the honest citizen, particularly at times of heightened national fervour surrounding our glorious athletes? Hyde has her suspicions reinforced with the following bleak news;

‘Last Year a freedom of information request revealed the Olympic project had taken a grand total of 115 locals from the five host boroughs off the dole – but had forced the closure or relocation of businesses employing 1,245 staff.’

Incredible statistics indeed. I look forward to Mr S Coe contacting Sporting Polemics to dispute these figures. Hyde did some more digging:

‘Whenever large-scale projects are proposed, evangelists waffle about "intangible" benefits – so we must thank economists Dennis Coates and brad Humphries for producing some chasteningly tangible work on the subject. A few years ago, these US academics undertook a major study into whether sports-led urban redevelopment spurred local economies – and their overwhelming conclusion was that it doesn’t. analysing data from 37 major US cities, they found that "the net economic impact of professional sports in the 37 cities that hosted professional sports teams over nearly 30 years, was a reduction in real per capita income over the entire metropolitan area.’

Add to this damning empirical research, we have the countless anecdotes of Olympic and FIFA stadiums lying empty or grossly underused by the host cities. Meanwhile, social deprivation, be it of the third world or first world variety, carried on impervious to the grand designs of their noble city planners. A quick trip to the townships of South Africa should confirm our worst fears; the much heralded regeneration of their communities did not happen. As for the townships of South Africa, so for slum dwellers of Delhi. Impoverished citizens of Brazil, do not hold your breath.

The big question for East Londoners, will London 2012 perform any better on the regeneration front? Marina Hyde has her doubts. She concludes,

‘As it is, whenever sport-led regeneration is proposed in this country, the public is fobbed off with stat-free waffle about how it will benefit and regenerate local communities – and in some cases, we seem to be dispensing with even that fig leaf. Only last week, the chief executive of our 2018 World Cup bid explained that England’s existing infrastructure made it, " a great platform for FIFA to come and make significant profits".

Are there it is. I knew the ‘P’ word would not be too low on the FIFA agenda. Well we already know that the Olympic school sporting legacy has been wiped out by last week’s Comprehensive Spending Review. So I guess we should not imagine that the aging, dilapidated Tower Hamlets communities are going to look like Canary Wharf any time soon.

End JPK 27/10/10 Copyright

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