Rushanara Ali, Labour MP for Bethnal Green and Bow spells out precisely how the promises of an Olympic legacy for the East end of London made by Lord Coe and his team to the IOC will very likely come to nought. The high flying promises are one by one being reneged upon and in their place are the usual corporate demands that are designed to maximise profits for the corporate sponsors. The only surprise is that the likes of Rashanara Ali believed any of the promises in the first place. It is not for nothing that the Olympic Games are now frequently referred to as the Corporate Games.

First up for Ali was the mind numbing statistics for local employment at the Olympic site. In what was promised as a bonanza for local job opportunities, it turns out to be the very opposite. Ali reports,

‘When I asked last year how many local residents from the host boroughs were employed on the Olympic site, I was informed that of the 6,000 onsite jobs created, only 201 were held by residents from Tower Hamlets and 133 from hackney. The host boroughs have invested in making sure the local workforce have the right skills, especially for the construction industry, but many local people feel excluded and are resentful they can’t break through.’

 

I’m sorry Rushanara, but we live in a world of ubiquitous finance capital, and capital will always and everywhere seek to maximise its profits, invariably at the expense of local workers. Your party, the Labour Party, has just been in office for thirteen years and not only did nothing to confront and regulate against the worse excesses of global capital, but on the contrary, they lauded the global capitalists as a force for social good. Ah, how the chickens have come home to roost!

Ali then outlines how one by one, the promised Olympic events have been taken away from East London to be hosted instead in some more salubrious setting, the most painful being the Marathon. Rather than twist its way around the famous working class streets of East London and end in spectacular glory in the Olympic stadium, as promised in the original bid, the Marathon has now been relocated to central London where the backdrop will be the more iconic and thus commercially attractive tourist attractions. Despite voracious protests by local councillors and residents, the commercial considerations of the Olympic sponsors are not to be messed with.

Thirdly comes the fiasco surrounding the post Olympic use of the Olympic stadium itself. The West Ham/National Athletics/ Newham Council bid should be the automatic choice because it offers the best hope for local use, but big money in the shape of Tottenham Hotspurs is throwing even those local plans into jeopardy. While I have no love for the greedy and seedy pornographers who currently own West Ham Football Club, it is fairly obvious that Newham Council’s involvement will give a potential opening to local schools and residents. But even on this, Ali and Co should not hold their breath.

So there you have it in a nutshell. All those promises of an Olympic legacy all evaporating in front of our very eyes. It was never going to be otherwise. But if Ali and the local councils are serious about creating an Olympic legacy the ball is still very much in their court. First thing is to accept the statistics that during big events like the Olympic, participation rates tend to fall rather than rise. Most residents of London, East or West will be watching events unfold from the comfort of their couch with beer and snacks at the ready. After the one month jamboree, which the state funded athletes of China are certain to dominate, it’s back to the grind stone until the next corporate diversion.

To confront the corporate juggernaut all the local councils need do is set up their own people’s marathon and run it during the Olympic month, preferably on the same day of the official marathon. In addition, a whole series of events can be arranged at very little expense, to encourage local residents to take part. Fun runs, walkathons, ping pong festivals, free swimming sessions- the imagination is the limit. To start the ball rolling, an inter-school mini Olympics should be set up, immediately and independently of Michael Gove’s elitist plans, whereby every kid participates to the best of his or her ability, with one point for participation and extra points for achievement. Participating schools to get free tickets to Olympic events, with the winners getting a few extra tickets thrown in.

The point of all this is; don’t wait for some imagined official Olympic legacy because it ain’t coming. We live in a highly corporate and sedentary culture and any attempt to reverse that will need to be carefully and cleverly tailored to local circumstances. Ali and her Labour mates could probably set up a new Olympic sport called ‘Bashing the Olympic Organisers’, and it may make them feel better, but it won’t get a single extra resident up and doing.

The IOC organisers are locked into their agenda of placating the Olympic sponsors and facilitating their maximisation of profit. The BOC are locked into their agenda of maximising their medal tally. The local councils should have a very different agenda, that of maximising local participation rates, prior to, during and after the Olympics. There may be a little bit of overlapping and each side can use each other, but in cold reality these are three quite separate agendas, one exclusively about profit, one exclusively about elite sporting performance, and the third about the health and well-being of the local residents. If the local councils confuse the three, rest assured that the corporate sector and the BOC will not.

They, the corporate sponsors are firmly focused on their agenda and have been since day one. The British Olympic Committee have been planning their medal campaign since before Beijing .The local councils, local campaigners and local residents must now get focused on their much neglected agenda without a day to lose.

End JPK 16/1/11 Copyright

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