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Diversity in 2012 - just a cheap labour strategy?

Campaigners have urged London 2012 to ensure London's diverse communities are highlighted at the Games. Peter Tatchell declared: "London's diverse communities should be an identifiable, visible highlight of the opening and closing ceremonies." John Graham-Cumming suggested that the 2012 marathon could be called the Turing Marathon after the wartime code-breaker and computer inventor Alan Turing, who narrowly missed out on running for Britain in the marathon at the 1948 Olympics and who committed suicide after being convicted under laws against homosexuality. 2012 is the centenary of his birth. Mr Graham-Cumming said: "celebrating Turing doesn't mean focusing on just that one aspect of his life; it means recognising a mental and physical athlete, a mathematician and marathon runner, and a man to whom we owe so much."

Mr Tatchell is to meet Stephen Frost, LOCOG's head of diversity and inclusion, to argue for human rights-themed events at the Games and that minorities should be visible during ceremonies. Maybe he will find a willing listener. Mr Frost was recently awarded the ORC Peter Robertson Award for Equality and Diversity Champions. ORC says it provides 'clients, primarily Fortune 500 firms, with specialized knowledge and advice about human resources management', which may or may not make this an award of consequence. However, LOCOG's path towards inclusivity and diversity has not been smooth.

In December 2009 the LDA awarded LOCOG its Gold Standard for its success in business diversity. However, this was speedily followed by threats of legal action from the Equality and Human Rights Commission which said LOCOG was failing in its duty to use the Games to promote equality and diversity. LOCOG's response was to argue that it was a private company and so had no obligation to meet diversity and equality targets set by the commission. LOCOG claimed it had a very good relationship with the EHRC and a spokesman said: "We have no reason to believe the EHRC has any issues with Locog."

Critics claimed, however, that most senior positions at the company were filled by white men and few contracts had gone to businesses run by people from ethnic minorities. Simon Woolley, of Operation Black Vote, said he had raised this with Mike Mulvey, chief executive of the London 2012 Business Network. Woolley said at the time: "Somebody has to take responsibility for this, the contracts have all been allocated so the question now is what's left?"

Our Stephen Frost, LOCOG's man for diversity, also got entangled in the row when he said equality and diversity would be "championed" by London 2012. Yasmin Alibhai-Brown gave that a loud raspberry and Gary Nunn of the gay campaign group Stonewall declared: "the promise of diversity on which London's Olympics bid was based is simply not being honoured. Very little evidence of real new work or sporting opportunities for disabled people, black people and gay people has emerged from Locog."

One area where everyone agreed minorities seemed to be getting a look in was in volunteering, an area in which LOCOG had promised the Olympics would be "fully reflective of London." Mr Nunn, cynically, agreed: "the one area where the Olympics have certainly been keen to engage with minority communities is that of volunteering. Sadly, that risks starting to look like a cheap-labour strategy."


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