In AD 67, Roman Emperor Nero was declared chariot champion, and awarded the gold medal. In spite of the fact that he fell out of his chariot and never even finished the race. So what are the facts about the Olympics, and is East London the true winner, or have they fallen out the chariot?
This year is the fifth anniversary of the Olympic bid, which brought promises of regeneration and upturns in the five boroughs of Tower Hamlets, Hackney, Waltham Forest and Newham. Chair Lord Sebastian Coe based his pitch for the Olympics on the promise of the lasting regeneration legacy the event would leave east London. It was proposed that these areas would experience higher employment, sporting participation, training opportunities and housing conditions. It was said that the sporting events would strengthen a deprived community. Yet how does such a huge event trickle down to the local level?
According to a study done by Coalter, Allison and Taylor on the role of sports in regenerating deprived urban areas, “there is little evidence about the effects of such sports events-led economic regeneration strategies…there is a lack of available data on the regenerative impact of sports investments on local communities”. In other words, major sporting events have no measurable impact on locals. Rather, huge projects strip funding away from locally managed, smaller projects. The National Lottery is contributing £2.2billion to the Olympics. Ironically, this has taken money from school sport funding, which has seen it’s budget cut by 28 percent, not to mention the Grants for the Arts donations which has taken a 29.6% slash. It should be noted that Prime Minister Cameron is reassessing the cuts on sports for school after a petition from Olympic and Paralympics athletes such as diver Tom Daley, swimmer Sascha Kindred and boxer James DeGale. National Lottery cuts directly affect smaller charities and local projects all around England, as they will find it near impossible to secure funding. Sir Clive Booth, chair of the Big Lottery Fund, commented on the diversion of good cause money: “I very much regret that it has been necessary to divert a further £425m of the Big Lottery fund’s good cause resources to support the 2012 Olympics infrastructure…” It is clear the government see regeneration as building large-scale projects as oppose to giving a helping hand to local communities.
If smaller projects and charities will be unable to pay their staff, at least the Olympic Delivery Authority has promised 11,000 new jobs, with a target of 10-15% of the workforce to be drawn from the five host boroughs. But surely this target sounds relatively small, considering the billions going in to the project and the labour that needs doing. Hackney MP Diane Abbot comments: “The number of people from the East End who have received jobs there remains low…it is a pitifully unambitious target. It will have no sustainability if local people see 85% to 90% of jobs going to outsiders”. The Olympic Delivery Authority scheme has put only eight Hackney residents into employment, yet about 108,000 people of workable age in the Olympic boroughs are unemployed. The largest space for employment is in construction, with a potential 30,000 jobs. However hiring is directly in the hands of the sub-contractor, who will simply use the cheapest labour, and not take the initiative to hire local people or give contracts to local suppliers. In fact, a mere 77 local businesses out of 600 companies supply to the Olympics. Tenon Forum, a group of entrepreneurial advisors have reported that just 10% of the nation’s entrepreneurs think the games will have a positive impact on their businesses, with 70% believing that they will lose out to big companies. 300 local businesses in Stratford were issued with compulsory purchase orders by the London Development Agency, and have now been vacated. These companies employed at least 5,000 staff. Yet these figures have not been subtracted from the calculation of job creations for the Olympics, and haven’t been taken into consideration by the ODA as losses for local employment. But you won’t have to worry about local unemployment if you are one of Boris Johnson’s ex-lovers, as you are guaranteed a job at the Olympic Park! So that should knock down the figure quite a bit.