It’s amazing how easy it is to manipulate people into choosing between two totally unacceptable alternatives. A classic example would be the economic and political choice between Tory cuts and Labour cuts. It’s a clever ploy. By presenting one draconian programme of cuts against a slightly less draconian programme the electorate conveniently forgets who was responsible for the economic mess in the first place. Instead of focusing on the casino capitalists and their off shore tax havens we get sidetracked into debating which austerity programme is the most appropriate for the country. You’ve got to admit, they are clever bastards. That private school education at ten thousand pounds per term turns out to be money well spent after all. With their classical Oxbridge education that daddy bought them, they can spend the rest of their days hoodwinking us peasants while living off the fat of the land.

 

A similar con trick is being enacted over at Stratford where we peasants are led to believe that the only viable choice for the Olympic Stadium legacy is one of two Premier League football clubs; Tottenham Hotspurs or West Ham. Ninety nine journalists out of a hundred have fallen for the trick and we, the long suffering paying punters, will once again expected to pay the bills without even a genuine debate or choice. Only Richard Williams, writing in The Guardian 25/1/11 has shown the acumen to see through the ruse. Williams, in a blistering opening paragraph writes;

‘Here’s the guts of the matter. Should more than half a billion pounds of public money be written off in order to make life financially sweeter for one or other of two football clubs owned, respectively by an offshore currency speculator and a couple of multimillionaire pornographers?

Now that is what I call sports journalism. Williams then goes on to expose the greed and dishonesty in both football bids and to make the case for sticking approximately to the original athletics plan whereby the stadium is reduced to a 25,000 seater and becomes the home of British athletics. Williams, then in what I regard as an overly pessimistic mood, suggests;

‘There is no longer the remotest chance that the 2012 stadium will be the focal point, as originally envisaged, of an institute of sport incorporating a boarding school for young elite athletes. But why not use some imagination and create a year round programme of athletic events for young people of all abilities? Perhaps it could even become the venue for Michael Gove’s projected Schools Olympics.’

I am in total agreement with Williams regarding the schools programme but disagree when he argues that the institute of sport concept is dead and buried. It can be resurrected and done so at relatively little infrastructural cost. As for the schools programme, that is not only desirable but entirely feasible.. There are 2500 schools in London and a good many more in the surrounding counties. In the East London area alone there are at least a 1000 schools and colleges. If all the London schools were grouped into clusters of ten, with each cluster having access to the stadium once a year, that would immediately create 250 school clusters and by extension 250 vibrant school athletic sports days. What a thrill and inspiration it would be to participate in your annual school sports day in the Olympic stadium with your family and friends watching from the stands, the very inspiration the London Olympics was meant to create. Yet our sporting authorities insist on the mantra that only football can make constructive use of the stadium.

As for the institute of sport concept – this is an essential component if Britain hopes to remain competitive on the world athletics stage. Tiny, impoverished Jamaica produces generation after generation of top class athletes simply because from school sport to elite national training there is an unbroken pathway. Athletics in Jamaica is exciting and part of the national psyche. It can be the same in Britain if we have the courage and imagination to grab the baton (pun intended). Football has its national home at Wembley, rugby at Twickenham, tennis at Wimbledon and cycling at Manchester. As for pop concerts, they are well catered for at the O2 Millennium Dome. Now it is time for athletics and swimming to have their national headquarters at Stratford. This is after all, no more than what was promised to the IOC and the world just two years ago. The Olympic Stadium belongs to future generations of athletes of all abilities. Pornographers and offshore currency speculators need not apply.

End JPK 30/1/11 Copyright

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