West Londoners must support London 2012

Frederick Bernas dismisses claims that we shouldn't back the bid

Related Links

'Don't Back the Bid' - Graham Rowe's original article

Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone with Transport Minister Tony McNulty, London 2012 Chairman Sebastian Coe and Olympic rowing gold medalist James Cracknell

London 2012 bid - official site

Hounslow Youth Service

UK Youth Parliament


Frederick would like to hear from young people in the Hounslow area about this issue or any other of local importance

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As someone democratically elected to represent young people in the borough of Hounslow, I wholeheartedly disagree with the comments made by Graham Rowe about the London 2012 bid. His criticism is narrow-minded and does not begin to consider the many positive factors that would emerge from a successful bid. I am shocked at his conclusion that West London residents ought to back a rival city.

However, his point about the city’s transport infrastructure is good. If the Olympic Games were held next year in London we could be certain that the city would not cope with the high numbers of people. But we know that the bid involves hosting the games in the year 2012, not 2005. The IOC will decide in July next year which city will win that right and there will be time between then and 2012 for the necessary and overdue transport improvements. What better excuse for a revamp is there than the Olympics taking place?

Rowe’s argument about the “Himmler-like urgings” (an interesting way to characterise an elected British government) to back the bid is a poor one. He has a democratic right to ask why we should do this, but to found this objection on the mention of the uncertain fact that “the chances of us winning the games are pretty minimal” is flimsy. I assume he means the chances of winning the right to host the games, rather than winning the actual competition - his text is a little unclear on this point.

Having myself campaigned for the 2012 bid, I know the importance of every single message of individual support and it is for this reason that the public has been so strongly encouraged. It’s no different to the government-funded advertising campaign against smoking, and, as a history student, I am quite certain that it bears less resemblance to Himmler’s propaganda than does most advertising. The argument is also hypocritical in the way it tells people not to bother registering support for the bid because it’s unlikely to succeed, when it is these personal opinions which can make all the difference. Citing the Eurovision Song Contest as reliable evidence of continental unpopularity is comical and in my opinion diminishes his argument.

The point about possible Olympic committee corruption is neither here nor there. Even if the rumours are true, it is no reason for the public not to lend support to a bid which does not in itself endorse that corruption.

Further confused thinking emerges in the author’s accusation that the government is merely using the Olympic bid as an excuse to spend lavishly on public transport; the very same under-resourced transport about which Rowe was complaining in his opening paragraph. First he criticises the transport system, then moans about an initiative that will improve its service, reach and efficiency.

Rowe’s point about the London Games not having anything to do with people on this side of town is in my opinion sheer lunacy. Just because it wouldn’t be happening in our back gardens doesn’t mean that west Londoners shouldn’t support it. That’s an incredibly selfish position. He assumes there will be no direct consequences, but hasn’t taken into account a range of factors.

It is known to sports fans across the globe that the Olympic Games have the power to change a city in a way not possible with any other event. Barcelona, Atlanta and Sydney are easily assessed examples of this Olympic effect. Much of London would be regenerated if we were host. Not only would new construction projects revive deprived areas, but there would be a range of other benefits for the rest of the city and nation. Jobs, homes and businesses would be created. The Olympics would be about so much more than just sport, the long-term redevelopment of London and its infrastructure having been in mind as the bid was formulated.

One of society’s most prevalent complaints at the moment involves increasing obesity in younger generations. Hosting the Games would increase sporting participation not only in London, but across the UK as young fans have the chance to see sporting idols in action close to home. Look at what happens to the public tennis courts and centres during Wimbledon, and imagine it increased to the scale of a full Olympic programme.

Disabled Members of the UK Youth Parliament anticipate that a successful bid would also affect them positively. As it’s not only the Olympics but the Paralympics that are included in the hosting, participation in and access to disabled sports would undoubtedly rise as well.

The arguments I have cited also answer the point made about the starving of prosperous boroughs for the benefit of less well-off areas. Things like the transport system and wider sporting participation will have advantages that far outreach those of individual boroughs. This is taking Little England-ism to a foolish extreme.

I don’t know why Mr. Rowe has decided, midway through an article on the Olympic bid, to embark on a tax rant which has nothing to do with the issue in question. If it’s a complaint about the individual cost which he really means, I can assure him that the bid is budgeted to cost only £20 per year, per household for five years.

The piece gets rather repetitive near the end and I do not wish to be guilty of the same. I don’t know what the writer is thinking about when he says “no attempt has been made to develop the transport infrastructure to meet extra demand”. Everyone in London knows that transport is an ongoing project in the city, and to say that nothing is being done is simply incorrect. In the Chiswick area alone we have witnessed significant recent improvements in the bus services.

In his conclusion, the author describes himself as “not anti-sport”. Perhaps this is an attempt at elaborate sarcasm, for anyone who even has the slightest interest in sport would surely acknowledge the importance of the London 2012 bid.

It gives me no pleasure to conclude that Graham Rowe’s article is narrow-minded, hypocritical and presents limited arguments not sufficiently articulated. He fails to take into account a variety of factors, which anyone looking to write a serious appraisal or critique should use. It is true that one can never account for absolutely everything, but some of his mistakes are, in a word, glaring.

Frederick Bernas

Member of the UK Youth Parliament (MYP) for Hounslow

October 14, 2004