The myth: An inclusive festival providing a legacy of hope through regenerating a run-down marginal East End. Huge benefits in terms of jobs, homes, increases in tourism and prosperity, of improvements in health and greater participation in sport.
The reality: The past ten Olympics have in fact brought a legacy of displacement, a burden of public debt, derelict or underused stadia and few long term jobs. Nations have won bids by paying bribes or making deals as with Salt Lake City, Sydney and Beijing.
The IOC insistance that cities create an Olympic Park to house main sporting facilities plus an Athletes’ Village has often required the demolition of an existing district and the removal of its users and inhabitants. The budget has to be guaranteed by shifting the cost onto the public purse.
Winners and losers. Over 2 million people have been evicted to make way for previous Games according to the Centre for Housing Rights and Evictions:evictions which have primarily targeted the poor, migrants, ethnic minorities and gypsies. Post Games gentrification results in the further displacement of poorer residents. In Barcelona some 55,000 people were removed by ‘post-Games regeneration’. Land values and rents rise forcing out poorer tenants as in Sydney and creating homelessness as in Vancouver. Police harass ‘undesirables’ who may simply be shipped out as in Atlanta where 10,000 were given one-way tickets out of town. The Olympics is about taking from some and giving to others.
The IOC insists budgets have to be guaranteed by governments handing the bill to the public purse. Cities like Montreal and Athens are then crippled by debt for decades. Contracts go to large companies and local or small businesses are excluded. Sponsoring multinational corporations get their names up in lights.
European Tourism Operators point out that tourists simply go elsewhere during the Games, meaning there is often no overall increase in visitors. Local people may go away meaning local businesses actually lose customers during the Games.
Sport: There is no measurable improvement in sport participation and health as a result of watching elite sporting events like the Olympics. Rather, a decline.
Regeneration: East London did not need the Olympics for regeneration. 35,000 new jobs and over 5,000 homes were going to be created at Stratford City, regardless of the Olympics. The LDA claims 4,400 net new jobs on the Olympic Park, but can’t say what they will consist of and that its long term job projections (over 30 years) should be treated ‘with caution’! As in Docklands, local unemployment could rise as new jobs may not match local skills. Local companies can’t get contracts because they are too small for the ODA to deal with.
Transport: Stratford was already a transport hub with two tube lines (one stop from a third), DLR, Silverlink, mainline rail, EuroStar, bus terminal, nearby motorway and airport.
Legacy: The ODA now admits there is no Housing Legacy from the Athletes’ Village. Stratford and the Lea Valley will become less affordable as a result of gentrification. Olympic planner, Jason Prior, said the Olympics would slow development by taking land out of circulation.
Park: The park will not be ‘the largest in Europe for 150 years’. The ODA now calls it the ‘largest new park in London for 150 years’. Its 110 hectares includes 92.8 hectares of existing open space. The sporting legacy is still uncertain. Stadia will be demolished and others still have no end use. Ken Livingstone said 2012 would make London a ‘world city’ to boost tourism. Tour operators point out it already is.
Cost: The Games are now 5x over budget and rising. Other public bodies have undeclared Olympic budgets. £100s of millions have been taken from arts, community projects and children’s sport. Security will cost over £1billion and there will be more surveillance and use of Anti-Terrorism Laws.
Displacement: Clays Lane Community and up to 1000 peoples’ homes on two estates were destroyed along with 80 yo allotments. The bungled relocation severely damaged the allotment community. Two traveller communities were moved. The relocation of businesses resulted in the loss of 5,000 jobs to the area. Parkland at Eastway and Arena Field has been destroyed. Digging up the land has caused a serious pollution hazard by creating radioactively contaminated dust.
For more information go to gamesmonitor.org.uk