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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.

However, some other sportsmen and women weren’t included in the select band of heroes. Being Northern Irish was not to be a hero of any kind while Paralympic athletes weren’t considered to be as heroic as their able-bodied counterparts.

Of course, in one sense it could be said Paralympians were the most heroic, leaving aside their athletic prowess. Former Paralympians like Tanni Grey-Thompson and Stuart Brae spoke out against the Government and Atos’s treatment of disabled people. Even more courageous were 2012 Paralympians like Tara Flood and Sophie Christiansen who criticised the Government while others spoke out in support of the Disability Living Allowance. Many Paralympians seemed reluctant to display their Atos badges during the Opening Ceremony for the Paralympic Games.

It may also not have helped that Disability campaigners were among the most vocal protesters during the Games. And then there was the public humiliation of Cameron and Osborne when they were handing out medals.

Alongside Coe, with his award for service of conspicuous national importance, was the former head of the Financial Services Authority, Hector Sants, in charge of regulation at the start of the credit crisis, who was knighted. Given that they and a variety of sporting ‘heroes’ got knighthoods and CBEs, one might be forgiven for wondering what honour could be given to a hero who actually helped to shorten a war. The Foreign Office's diplomatic and overseas list included codebreaker Raymond Roberts, who had to wait almost 60 years for his MBE for services to Bletchley Park. The decrypting team is said to have shortened the War by two years. The rest of his team remain unrecognised.

To be real heroes they should have got on their bikes.

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Oh! What a lovely legacy!

London 2012 gets another award! In December the Estates Gazette presented the London Legacy Development Corporation with its Outstanding Contribution to Property award to celebrate 'the outstanding progress London has made in securing a lasting legacy'. Outstanding progress? We can’t even get into the Park!

That’s the thing with the Olympics – it’s all about property development.

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Celebration Capitalism!

The Guardian led the way recently with its poll claiming almost 80% of respondents thought the Olympics had cheered Britain up. Hardly surprising considering the constant repetition in the media of the wonders of the Games. In the summer at the height of the medal winning frenzy the Guardian’s poll at the time only found 55% thought the Games worthwhile. When considering whether the Olympics were worth the money the Grauniad relied on the Government’s faulty £9 billion price tag rather than the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee’s £11 billion or Sky Sports’ more radical up to £24 billion total. However, in other respects the poll had less comfort to offer. 61% considered Britain’s status in the world had diminished in 2012 while 51% thought Britain will still be stuck in a slump at the end of 2013.

So what of more tangible benefits than the feelgood factor? The 2012 Meta Evaluation Report shows that 54% of ODA contracts went to London based firms (p 21) with the South-East in a distant second place followed by the East of England. Small businesses had difficulty getting shortlisted. An Ipsos/Mori Poll in the Financial Times found that while 91% of Britain’s captains of industry thought the Olympics had boosted Britain’s reputation only a quarter said their companies had benefited, six out of ten said there had been no effect and 13% said their business had suffered a loss.

All this is eerily reminiscent of the Government’s own prescient 2002 Game Plan Report which stated: ‘We conclude that the quantifiable evidence to support each of the perceived benefits for mega events is weak, The explicit costs of hosting a mega event should be weighed very carefully against the perceived benefits…(which) appear to be more about celebration than economic returns.’

As Jules Boykoff puts it: Celebration Capitalism!

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Lies and ignorance about the legacy - it's not academic

No wonder people get confused about Stratford City, the Athletes’ Village, the Olympic Park and the Legacy. Earlier in the autumn we had the fiction from the Centre for Economic and Business Research of the 'highly rated' E20 postcode's Chobham Academy even though it hadn't yet opened. Recently the Academy opened its doors to children who wanted to apply. The Evening Standard told us the Chobham Academy is an Olympic Legacy, forgetting to mention that it's the community school described in the West Leyton part of the Stratford City project, created under a separate non-Olympic planning application and not an Olympic legacy. Another commentator, the recently launched London Olympic Park Watch, which describes itself as an 'independent...constructively critical observer', says the school is 'in the Olympic Park' which of course it isn't. Stratford City, where the Academy, like the Athletes’ Village, is situated, is not in the Olympic Park but on the Stratford Rail Lands, the large piece of land which includes the Westfield Shopping Centre.

A while ago I went to a talk on the Olympics, comparing London and Tokyo. One of the speakers was Professor John Gold of Oxford Brookes University. He informed his audience that the Academy and the Athletes’ Village were built as Olympic legacies. I pointed out that this was not true, that they were part of the Stratford City project. He immediately agreed!

These are not 'academic' points, to coin a phrase. To assess a project it is necessary to know what that project consists of. Mount Olympus may be lost in clouds of unknowing, journalists and academics should inhabit the plains.

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Another miraculous (cycling) legacy

The Olympics is that dream event, even when something goes wrong it goes right. Another accidental cycling legacy was discovered a while back by the hard legacy hunting British media. TfL told them that more people in London, 19 percent during the Olympics and 32 percent during the Paralympics, took to their bikes. Why? According to the Standard it was 'to escape packed Tubes and buses'. Of course, what is even more remarkable is that Londoners and out of town commuters had stayed at home or out of London for precisely the same reason, following the dire warnings from the very same TfL, and of course blond bomber Boris, of over-crowded public transport, leaving the Tube and Central London deserted during the first week of the Games. This had, of course, created the Miracle on the Underground when the system did not go into massive overload.

One of the imaginative suggestions from TfL at that time, to avoid the coming chaos, was 'get on your bike'. Another Olympic miracle, that's just what quite a lot of them did. Another win win for London 2012, scare people shitless and then claim the credit for the transport miracle that follows.

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Use our global reach - but don't ask us to pay

They’ve been discussing hosting the Olympics at a conference in Dubai.

One speaker was Boutros Boutros, Divisional Senior Vice President, Corporate Communications, Emirates, who was clear about what corporations expect:

"A company like us will always be a target for those seeking sponsorship," he said. "My message to them is don't come to us if you need financial support - come to us to use our global reach to spread a message and rally a country," he added.

"Major sporting events should be financed by the Government hosting it. If they don't have the money to finance the event, they shouldn't bid for it," he concluded.

'Use our global reach.' In other words let us take advantage of the advertising and marketing but you foot the bill, the hosting a parasite legacy!

Another speaker was Wolfgang Maennig, Professor of Economics at Hamburg University who declared:

"Host cities often suffer a decline in visitor numbers and an increase in people leaving the country during the event. But positive factors include the creation of iconic buildings, a surge in national pride, and an improvement in the host city's international perception." The party legacy!

All strangely reminiscent of the Game Plan report back in 2002 which stated ‘The explicit costs of hosting a mega event should be weighed very carefully against the perceived benefits...(which) appear to be more about celebration than economic returns.’

It's an old, old story, oft repeated...

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East v West, the battle goes on

So the little guy hasn't given up after all. Barry Hearn says Leyton Orient plan to fight on to prevent West Ham taking over the Olympic stadium.

One thing's for sure, the stadium is great entertainment!

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London tourists aren't smiling

Will tourists be returning to London after their experience of the Olympics? Maybe not. Apparently visitors to London did not find the city friendly despite all the adoring coverage of Games Makers overcoming London's unfriendly image. It was also not found to be clean, safe and definitely not good value for money by comparison with rival destinations.

Spokeswoman Emma Shaw from TripAdvisor, which carried out the survey, tried to pin the blame on London before the changes or in the aftermath of the Olympics: "While London hasn't ranked particularly highly by those that have reviewed the city this year, it's important to remember that many of the respondents may have experienced London before major changes were made or post the events of the summer."

So if it was rubbish before and rubbish after, what hope for the future?

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Star Struck by missiles

It was hard to see how putting missiles on the top of flats enhanced security during the Olympics. If a plane had managed to penetrate the exclusion zone and had not been destroyed by Tornados out in the countryside shooting it down over London would plainly cause massive casualties. It seemed at the time this was simply a demonstration of the power of the state to take this kind of action (the missiles were installed without the agreement of the residents, the MOD said they would only be consulted after the decision to use them had been taken) to impress corporations and governments and show off its hardware.

The marketing ploy seems to have paid off. The missiles deployed on top of the blocks of flats were Star streak missiles. The Thai Government was apparently sufficiently impressed to put in an order.

The UK Defence and Trade Organisation is happy to connect the dots:

'The high-profile role of STARStreak in the air security plan for London 2012 has led to increased interest in the system around the world.'

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Was that the Euro 2012 Olympics?

The headline of a BBC Newsbeat article declares 'London Olympics dominate 2012 Google searches in the UK.' So presumably the most searched terms would be something along the lines of 'London 2012 Olympics'. Hmm, apparently not. The article continues:

'The Euro 2012 football tournament, held in Ukraine and Poland during the summer, was the most searched for term this year on Google in the UK.'

Euro? London? They obviously meant the Olympics. Stop being such a pedant!

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