Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Lasting Legacy - part 3,765

To listen to some people, especially politicians and their acolytes but some others as well, you'd think this was an event that happens about once a century and the world has changed beyond recognition after the two weeks that have just passed.

Errm, no. Olympic Games happen every four years and each time they are claimed to be the best ever, assuming that not too many people get disqualified (the process has just begun), not too many people get killed (only one unfortunate cyclist this time) and they finish on time. The world has not changed despite so many unexpected British medals and despite the weather more or less obliging. Britain is no different from the country she was two weeks ago and the world has not suddenly noticed that this strange little group of islands exists.

Der Spiegel thinks that the Olympic Games gave Britain a much-needed boost, presumably because uniquely of all countries in the Western hemisphere Britain was in the doldrums. For some reason particular praise is extended to what sounds like a spectacularly naff and ridiculous closing ceremony which affirmed beyond any question that British culture consists of pop music and one or two TV programmes with Eric Idle of Monty Python fame representing cultural history.

The Evening Standard has been hysterical about the Games for the last two weeks, occasionally interrupting itself to bring the odd piece of bad news. What I should like to know is how its own readership has done. My impression is that far fewer people have been reading the Standard in the last two weeks and far more copies are left in piles on stations at the end of the day. But getting accurate figures from newspapers these days, especially the freebie ones, is past hoping for.

Today we were told that the rush for the Paralympic tickets is on. If true (a big if) we might find ourselves in the odd situation of having seen empty seats at Olympic events and none at the usually far less popular Paralympic ones.

Then, of course, there is the obligatory story of the Olympic afterglow that will give the West End shops a boost. They will need it in the light of the losses they must have made in the last two weeks when they were half empty. So far the rush was not very visible whereas the pre-Olympic one, which, I see, was slipped into the article in a rather sly fashion, was. We all noted how many people were in London in the weeks before the Olympics and how few during them. Will the promised £250 million "afterglow" be sufficient for that and for the undoubted emptiness during the Paralympics? We shall see when the Q3 results come out.

What else? Well, Amol Rajan tells us that the spirit of 2012 will revive the Big Society, an idea whose time did not come last time round and is not likely to do so now. I understand that the various embassies in London studied the PM's confused burblings on the subject and produced reports for their governments. We shall definitely need to have a look at them if the idea is to be revived.

Patience Wheatcroft thinks that the Olympic success has bolstered Britain's self-confidence enough for the country to get out and seek out new markets beyond the eurozone. This woman is supposed to be our leading economic commentator and has, for that reason, been given a peerage by the admiring Prime Minister. Yet, she appears not to have noticed that Britain has always, throughout her history, had markets beyond what might be called the countries of the eurozone.

In fact, even according to official statistics that are usually skewed by the reluctance to separate out the Rotterdam effect or to analyze lost opportunities, Britain's main export market is now outside the EU. Not just the eurozone but the EU as a whole and it was all done before the Olympics.

Incidentally, I have been told quite seriously on another site that Britain coming third in the gold medal count will mean that the world will now take us seriously. Are we not all pleased that this historically, politically and economically insignificant country has finally been placed on the map?

Never mind all that. What are the real aspects of the Lasting Legacy?

To start with, Lord Coe is getting a new and exciting job complete with his own quango, I've no doubt. Figures of how much it will all cost have not, so far as I can make out, been announced but perhaps the TPA will get on to that subject. He might even become the President of the one of the world's most corrupt organizations the IOC, which has temporarily been proclaimed by our media as the greatest of all great organizations whose aim it is to save the world from ... well, just about everything.

Meanwhile, David Cameron, obviously frustrated by the feel-good factor that has accrued to Hizonner the Mayor, called together another World Hunger Summit, which will get rid of world hunger as part of the Olympic Legacy. Well, to be absolutely precise it will squander huge amounts of taxpayers' money on more summits and meetings, transnational organizations, good will visits and aid handed over to the bloodthirsty kleptocrats who prevent the Third World from having any kind of economic development, which is the only way hunger can be overcome.

Well, that's two legacies. What are you complaining about?


  1. ffs, a hunger summit? Hasn't he got any real work to do?

  2. I don't think so, AKM. What would be the real work?

    1. Real work for a Prime Minister? Hmmm, well when he's not chairing a cabinet meeting, how about we have him sitting for a portrait painting? Make sure the artist is very, very, very slow so we can keep the PM away from anything "courageous" for as long as possible. With a bit of luck we end up with a portrait of a historical figure at the end which might be worth a few bob after he's dead!

      A hunger summit or something similar will just lead him to commit taxpayer funds to some stupid vanity project that won't achieve it's initial aim and might well make things worse in the long-run.

    2. No might about it. It will make things worse in the short, medium and long run.

  3. Indeed, and of course a lot of people enjoyed themselves watching the Games on tv but it is a shame that there is so much absurd writing about the Olympics afterglow and so little balance. When we were at the London Assembly all those years ago at the time of "the bid", we predicted the collapse in business and tourist receipts, predicted the wild overspend (now hyped as a "saving"..."under budget" when in fact it is massively over-budget) and predicted even the empty seats fiasco. It was not rocket science - just repeating the story of all other Olympic Games.

    So all have had their fun for 10 billion + lost business, and Rio no doubt will be the same after they have liquidated a few thousand people who are in the way of the site and set everything up by 2016 (or possibly 2017). But I go back to the original suggestion (and it might have been you who indeed made it) - have the Olympics in Greece, their original home, every time. It saves money, limits the nasty corruption of the IOC (you could never end it) and ends the nasty underbelly of much of the Olympic bidding and construction process, often in cities which are unsuited to staging such a circus.

    The temptation for journalists, of course, is to self-censor and ignore the downside and revel in cod nationalism. Let us judge in a year or so the genuine "legacy" which the previous three Games to Beijing were built upon and which they have all spectacularly failed to deliver. Let us see if the infamous British journalist can avoid the bribe and twist by late 2013 when all the sustainability turns to air and the real cost begins to be counted.

  4. Oh long before late 2013, Damian. And yes, I stand by the idea of giving the Olympics to Greece in perpetuity.