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The Trouble with Stadiums - London and Rio

More trouble with stadiums. Is this a record? For one Summer Games' stadium to remain out of action until after the next Olympics has ended? In London the LLDC has now said the Olympic stadium may not be used until August 2016. West Ham still seems to be the leading bidder in a race with Leyton Orient, Formula One and the UCFB College of Football Business with the NFL a wild card. In typical Olympics fashion Karren Brady has been talking up the jobs that will be created if West Ham win, claiming a thousand jobs will be created at the stadium. And, of course, in case we forget, where the Olympics are concerned property development is at the heart of the project and West Ham expect to make a killing on the redevelopment of their Green Street site

And then there's that budget again. The original cost of the stadium rose from £280m to £496m despite InsidetheGames reporting otherwise! Now a further £200 million may need to be spent on modifying the stadium for its future lessee on top of the £500 million already splashed out on its construction. In the meantime the LLDC will have to pay for the maintenance of the stadium while it lacks a tenant. As if that was not enough, the promise to continue to provide an athletics track has resurfaced as, if the stadium is not equipped with covered seating for one of these lessees, the deal with the IAAF for the Athletics World Championships in 2017 may have to be renegotiated. This could presage further trouble between the BOA and other parts of the Olympic team as S Coe, already a vice-president of the IAAF, has an ambition to head that body and retaining the stadium as an athletics venue is critical to that objective!

Hardly surprisingly after recent controversies the LLDC appears to have adopted a position of extreme caution in its planning. Dennis Hone, new Chief Executive of the LLDA, is reported as saying: “We need to make a decision on which of the four, if any, will provide the best long-term option and the best value for money. But it is important to remember that this is a 100-year lease we are talking about with the Stadium so we have to get it right.” 'If any'!

But London is not the only Olympic city to be experiencing stadium blues. Rio is wracked with controversy over the fate of the famous Maracanã stadium and sports complex. A public hearing into the privatisation of the stadium and complex was interrupted by a demonstration with hundreds expressing their disgust at the manoeuvrings of the authorities. Close on a billion dollars have been spent on programmes to upgrade the facilities. The football stadium has been closed for years as earlier programmes have been reversed. Now, despite promises from politicians like the present Mayor of Rio who said that “the privatization of the Maracanã is inconceivable”, privatisation is the preferred option following a well trodden path in mega events of public money being used to advance private interests. ‘Consultation’ takes the familiar form of presenting an agreed plan and ignoring objections. As Christopher Gaffney writes:

'The expenditure of public money on public works to be handed to private interests that involves the destruction of a top-performing public school, a century-old indigenous heritage site, and two Olympic quality training facilities in order to generate even more profit for Brazil’s richest man, is a perversity that boggles the imagination.'

The White Elephant hunt continues…


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