'Don't Back the Bid'
Graham Rowe on why he thinks Paris is the choice for 2012
Use any form of public transport at the moment and you will be urged several times on your journey to 'Back the Bid'. The response to these Himmler like urgings to do as you are told should be 'no', but at the very least a responsible citizen should ask 'why?'.
The chances of us winning the games are pretty minimal - we would all accept this even if the stark evidence of recent Eurovision voting was not available to us. We are even less popular than the French globally, which is quite an achievement for the current Government's foreign policy.
Why then bother? We bid for every games and fail miserably. Surely we should just give up? Before you decide to back the bid I suggest you read the books by Andrew Jennings on the Olympic movement. They demonstrate that, under Samaranch, the IOC outdid the United Nations for corruption and graft and that the bid process has been completely compromised. There may have been some improvement under Jacques Rogge but recent investigations by the BBC suggest that votes from many IOC representatives are available to the highest bidder. Although the London bid committee has already descended into fractional infighting, their standards of personal integrity are probably too high to enable them to do the job required effectively.
The main reason this country bids for the Olympics is not to bring us the games but to provide leverage to justify spending on infrastructure for the games particularly in the field of transport. Hence Transport for London's generosity towards the campaign. According to Private Eye this has so far cost us £8 million. It is the largest public awareness campaign ever carried out by TfL. Surely I'm not the only one who thinks that this money would be better spent making the public aware of when the next District Line train is likely to appear.
We should not kid ourselves that a London games are anything to do with us. This would be an East London games with all the important events held over the other side of London. Don't forget Crossrail won't be built until 2013 and so the tube will be the only way to get to events along with the 200,000 expected visitors, most of whom will arrive at Heathrow. (Of course there will be the inevitable threat of industrial action by the RMT during the games because Lord Bob Crowe's free seats weren't right on the finishing line of the 100m and tube drivers weren't getting free tickets to the beach volleyball.) They might deign to hold the meaningless tennis event in Wimbledon and Greco-Roman wrestling might be in a local sports hall but that's about it.
The games will be used as a pretext for pouring money into the regeneration of East London, often with residents saying that they don't want and need to be regenerated. Already compulsory purchase orders for sites needed for possible games arenas, on clearly unfavourable terms, have led to the closure of businesses that have been around for over 100 years.
As the Mayor has underwritten all the costs of the bid, whether successful or unsuccessful, they will have to be paid for. Athens is just beginning to come to terms with the scale of its post-games hangover and the full financial cost. There is no reason to believe London would come out any better and if the Millennium Dome and Wembley stadium are precursors of the way the games developments are to be managed then the costs could be quite frightening. Given the way our local tax system works the majority of the fiscal burden for this will be born by the citizens of West London.
Leo Boland, chief executive of the London borough of Barnet, has written an article for the Guardian in which he points out that starving boroughs that are perceived to be more prosperous of funding and investment is a dangerous policy. He says, "If you use the country lane in Ealing that passes for the North Circular Road, you may feel aggrieved that all regional investment is taking place in a line east of the River Lea."
Rising land values have meant that every square inch of available real estate in West London is being developed, the Mayor's policy on affordable housing means that the density of these developments is artificially high yet no attempt has been made to develop the transport infrastructure to meet the extra demand. The consequent congestion and pollution is in danger of tipping certain parts of London into a spiral of decline.
Therefore, I'll be an enthusiastic backer of the Paris bid. The French will put on a much better games than we would because they would throw public money at it regardless of the consequent crippling debt, Livingstone will hopefully be somewhat constrained by a more cautious Treasury. They are welcome to the gridlock and chaos that the events will bring and it will be easier to get to the Paris games from West London. Don't get me wrong - I'm not anti-sport and do accept amidst all the drug-compromised races and unbelievably arcane minority events there are genuinely stirring pieces of human endeavour like Kelly Holmes's double gold. I look forward to toasting the successful defence of her titles in a small Parisian café.
October 6, 2004