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Andrew Jennings: The Lords of the Rings, The Great Olympic Swindle

1992: The Lords of the Rings was a smash hit translated into 13 languages. The Lords and its disclosures of Olympic corruption and the fascist background of the IOC president changed world perceptions of the organization forever. Published in USA as Dishonest Games. Sports Illustrated lists it as one of the Top One Hundred Sports Books of all Time.


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So who profits from Olympic developments?

Property speculation

Labour MP Clive Betts has highlighted the need for transparency in public private sector deals for delivery of the Olympic developments and has called for parliamentary scrutiny of such arrangements. Deals were being discussed with Stratford City Developments ahead of consent for the Olympic bill to ensure conversion of flats into housing for 4,500 athletes (R. Booth, The Guardian, July 29, 2005). In 2003, the consortium Stratford City Developments and the LDA agreed not to frustrate the other's planning applications. The Guardian article notes: "A director of the consortium, Sir Stuart Lipton, was also a senior government advisor on the Olympics plans at the time of the co operation agreement. He was later forced to resign from his post as chairman of the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment following accusations of conflict of interest between his role as government adviser and a leading private developer".


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Retail therapy

Remarkably, refutation of the inevitable benefits of hosting the Games is considered within the Olympic planning documents (Retail, Leisure and Sport Impact Assessment Appendices, Appendix 4 to the Environmental Statement, January 2004) as part of an attempt to calculate the amount and type of retail floor space that the Games could support. The Atlanta Games of 1996 was a retail disaster.


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Cash crisis looms

The £550 million funding for the London Olympics will initially come from London council tax payers, £1.5 billion from the National Lottery, followed by a further £75 million from council tax, and £250 million from the London Development Authority (LDA). The International Olympic Committee (IOC) insists that host cities underwrite all liabilities. £15 million was spent on the London bid alone (Blowe, 2004; 2005).


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Aftermath 2012 - Anything in Stratford is an Olympic Legacy

Back in July 2016 after I posted an article about job creation in the aftermath of London2012 on Games Monitor BBC Radio 4's You and Yours programme contacted me for an interview. They had come across my FoI requests which showed that so far fewer than 1000 jobs had been created on the Olympic Park and LLDC projections for homes within the Park were likely to be lower than 6,650. In fact following further reseach I found that the figure is probably around 4,700 with the possibility of a 'legacy' of almost no genuinely affordable housing when taking into account the demolition of housing at Clays Lane and Park Village for the Olympics.

My interview with You and Yours was pre-recorded making it impossible for me to argue on air. The programme then held a live interview with the London Legacy Development Corporation's Director of Communications, Marketing and Strategy, Ben Fletcher, who proceeded to claim the LLDC would be creating 40,000 jobs and 24,000 homes. He compared this with a town the size of Milton Keynes in its early stages.

The BBC interviewer pointed out that Stratford City, the massive development next to the Olympic Park, would have been built anyway. Fletcher couldn't disagree with this obvious statement but resorted to the usual strategy of casting doubt on whether Stratford City would have been completed given the credit crunch. Fletcher also repeated the canard of the 'catalytic' effect and declared "what we don't know and what we will never know is whether those projects would have survived without the Olympics." Many people, he thought, would say they would not have done so.

Sadly in these circumstances reporters are often not well versed in the specifics of the case. For example, the much touted 'catalytic' effect had been discounted long before in 2003 by the Olympics master planner, Jason Prior. A property journalist had reported:

Prior believes the long-term regeneration elements and development opportunities will happen with or without the Olympics. What may differ is the pace of change. In the event of a successful bid, developers in partnerships might have to play a longer-term game – the land would not be freed for its end use until after the 2012 event.


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a state of public calamity

We're fairly inured by now with the idea of the Olympics providing a state of exception but 50 days before the 2016 Opening Ceremony Rio has now gone one better announcing a state of public calamity. Or perhaps Citius, Altius, Fortius just got lost in translation.


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The Aftermath - of the London2012 stadium

After putting up heroic resistance in the public interest the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) finally gave in and published the details of the contract with West Ham for the London Olympics stadium after being ordered to do so by the Information Tribunal. However, a search of the LLDC website for the contract produces 'no result' and does not provide any trace of the document and nor is it mentioned under 'News' or 'Press Releases'. The full agreement can be found here. Interestingly the details of the contract had not been pursued by any public authority or by GLA Assembly Members, by the European Union or even by rival football clubs like Tottenham Hotspur or Leyton Orient but by Supporters groups from fourteen different clubs. Apparently Boris Johnson had said he would be happy for the contract to be published. If so it is hard to understand why he didn't push for this to happen, as the LLDC is very much his baby, rather than allow it to spend over £21,000 fighting the case.

The BBC outlined the details. The final cost of the stadium is £701million with the cost of conversion £272million, up from the original estimate of £160million. West Ham's contribution to this refit was £15million. [As an indication of how bad this deal is it has to be recalled that West Ham's previous owner Eggert Magnusson offered £100million to take over the Olympic stadium! He was prepared to guarantee an athletics legacy as well] It will pay £2.5million rent per year with a scale of charges depending on the club's footballing success or failure. However, it will not pay for a variety of services like security, undersoil heating, floodlighting, cleaning which are worth up to another £2.5million.

The BBC claims the stadium will be a multi-use venue. It is hard to see the point of this statement. It is a 'multi-use' venue because of the enormous amount of money spent on converting it to accommodate athletics and football! However, if a two month window for, in all probability, one major athletics event a year qualifies it as a multi-use venue then this is a strange understanding of multi-use. The fact that music events will also be hosted is hardly unusual for stadiums of this type, many football clubs host such events without this kind of expenditure.

However, in this article the BBC fails to mention the £40million loaned by Newham to West Ham as part of the deal although back in 2011 it reported on concerns in Newham and among some Newham councillors that the deal had little to offer the community and highlighted the control exercised by Newham's Mayor, Robin Wales, who is able to use political patronage to silence opposition in a borough without any non-Labour councillors. The BBC reported:

One serving councillor, speaking on condition of anonymity, said: "A significant number of councillors have reservations.
"There are massive doubts over supposed community benefits."
The councillor continued: "Why are we arranging a loan for a private company? West Ham should go to a bank like everybody else.
Councillors are afraid to speak out. This rings alarm bells.
Anita Shields, Independent auditor
"The financial football model is hardly blessed by success."
But not one serving politician will go on the record.
The councillor said: "The problem is the mayoral system.
"People are frightened to go against the mayor. They are frightened of a lack of patronage.
"He's had almost the same executive since 2000 - on £40,000 each. People want a bit of the action."


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