Published on Games Monitor (http://gamesmonitor.org.uk)

An introduction to the social impacts of the Olympics

By Martin Slavin
Created 27 Jun 2012 - 00:00

The Olympics project is large and complex. In this revised version of our previous paper of the same name, we draw your attention to significant impacts, the paucity of procedures for impact evaluation, and the processes surrounding the bidding for, and promotion of, the Olympic event.

Negative social impacts in London include:

Clearance of settlements, firms and sporting activities: The Clays Lane Peabody Estate (formerly Housing Co-operative) was removed for the event with the displacement of 425 tenants, along with two Gypsy and Traveller sites, 209 Lower Lea Valley businesses (nearly 5,000 jobs dispersed from the area), and the Manor Gardens Society Allotments. Construction of the Olympic Park has severely curtailed sporting activities on the Hackney Marshes, including the use of canal and river towpaths, and the Eastway Cycle Circuit (now relocated seven miles away at Hog Hill, Redbridge). The Carpenters Estate in Newham is the latest casualty of the Olympic effect, with the last remaining tenants and leaseholders in danger from University College London’s plans to build a campus off Stratford High Street. Some tenants on the estate will also be displaced by the BBC and Al Jazeera sports news teams who are renting space in the tower blocks during the Games.

Diversion of Lottery funding from voluntary organisations: The National Lottery will contribute £2.2 billion to the funding of the Olympic Games.

Increased securitisation: Newspaper reports suggest that 12,000 police may be involved in security in and around London during the Games, alongside up to 21,000 security guards across the country. US officials are bringing 1,000 agents (some of whom will be armed) and 500 FBI officers, to protect contestants and diplomats. Sponsors such as Coca-Cola will have their own private security personnel. The MOD may deploy up to 12,000 troops, including 4,000-5,000 specialist personnel providing bomb disposal, air defences, and a maritime capability. There will be a partial militarization of the police, with armed police on the London Underground and railway network, and also at training venues around the country. CCTV networks are intended to be integrated across the capital, and mobile location tracking and facial recognition technology will be in operation. Ground-to-air missiles will be placed on the tops of certain tower blocks and in beauty spots such as Oxleas Wood and Blackheath. With so many security personnel on the ground in east London and dispersal zones in operation in Newham, there are fears of an increase in racist policing, especially ‘stop and search’.

Distortion of the residential property market: House prices across the Olympic area increased differentially since the bid decision, with Leytonstone up 23 per cent against a London average of 15 per cent in 2007. After the crash in 2008, however, Bloomberg (2011) suggest that the Olympic areas have been blighted with prices falling and an overall rise of only 19 per cent (compared to a London average of 27 per cent). Newham remains the capital’s second cheapest location for buying a house. However, the run up to the event has seen a sharp escalation in rental prices across the host boroughs (between five and 35 times their typical rates).

Shifts in governance of the population: Economic development priorities have been complemented by a new imperative toward the virtuous, disciplined and responsible autonomy of citizenry. In the Convergence document produced by the Host Boroughs Unit, deficits of employment and income are conceived purely in terms of educational attainment and benefits ‘dependency’, and remedied by government policies (reformed structures of administration) alone. Gentrification is seen as the major force effecting ‘an equalisation of life chances’ with the rest of London.

For further information, please see our three background papers on (1) Impact, (2) Finance and infrastructure, and (3) Apparatus, available from our media centre [2] page (scroll down).

[Editor's note; Revised version, 27 June 2012]

London Olympics Myths pt 2.doc [6]41.5 KB
Review of impact studies of Sport events 02.pdf [7]29.2 KB
World Class Games in East London.doc [8]21.5 KB
Cox Showing off the City.pdf [9]25.12 KB

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