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Pyeongchang2018 Olympics at the heart of South Korean corruption scandal

By Julian Cheyne and Rebecca Kim - Researcher at the Democracy & Social Movement Institute, SungkongHoe University, Seoul

Against the background of the all consuming scandal which has engulfed South Korea's now deposed President Park Pyeongchang2018 looms up as the next fixture in the Olympic murk. The scandal surrounding ex-President Park Guen-hye, her confidante, Choi Soon-sil, and South Korea’s secretive companies, or chaebols, such as Samsung, Hyundai, Lotte or Hanjin, has cast a light on the shadowy interactions between the government, the secret services and the chaebols, the companies which came to dominate the South Korean economy during the dictatorship of Park’s father, Park Jung-Hee.


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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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London2012 fails to 'Inspire a Generation' in Newham

London 2012 is still not inspiring people in the host borough of Newham to take up sport. A recent report from UKActive showed that the borough was home to the least active population in England. A second host Borough, Barking and Dagenham, came second in the list. UKActive also highlighted the unsurprising finding that participation was lowest in the poorest parts of the county. But not only is poverty a marker for lower rates of activity so, perhaps surprisingly, is youth. Far from inspiring sport participation among the 'target' age group of 16-25 year olds the period after the Games witnessed an actual decline in activity in this age group.


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when's the divorce?

The BBC describes the Stadium deal as an "unavoidable marriage". We're left to wonder exactly how much Newham paid for the wedding present?. Coe's concerns weren't for footie of course or he'd have done some research:

"Whisper it quietly, but football fans rarely want to watch football in an Olympic Stadium".


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BOA constrictor Coe

Revenge is a dish best served cold and companion of dishonour Coe is enjoying his repast. His arrival at the BOA has ‘coincided’ with the departures of Chairman Colin Moynihan, who left a year early, the former commercial director, Hugh Chambers, and the director of sport, Sir Clive Woodward, who noted the organisation was taking a ‘new direction’.


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Watching the Olympics or sitting on the remote?

Inflation is a feature of Olympic Games. Not just in cost. Sochi’s Organising Committee chairman, Dmitry Chernyshenko, predicts a 17% rise in tv viewing figures to a total of 3.4billion viewers for the 2014 Winter Olympics.


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Honours even?

The New Year’s Honours list revealed interesting definitions of what it is to be heroic. Sports men and women like Wiggins, Ennis and Ainslie were granted top honours and Lord Coe became a Companion of Honour, a special honour given for service of conspicuous national importance and limited to 65 people at any one time.


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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.'


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