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Democratic deficit

The principal legacy of the Olympics, apart from the endless lying, seems to be they just stop people thinking. Now John Armitt has said infrastructure projects should follow the example of the Olympics - they should get cross party support and politicians shouldn't interfere! It should just be down to a quango to decide on projects like building nuclear power stations or new runways. So don't ask questions and just dish out the dosh to the corporations.

That's Olympic democracy!

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Turning a deaf ear

One of the curiosities of the Olympics is how other groups like to be associated with it regardless of the realities on the ground. For example the Noise Abatement Society gave the ODA its so-called 'silent approach' award for its code of construction back in 2010. It specified the following:

The ODA’s Community Relations team work closely with the contractors to ensure that the construction programme has little impact on residents living close by. This is achieved through:

the provision of a free Construction Hotline

regular residents’ construction update meetings for people living closest to the park

the Corporate Social Responsibility programme and community events.

Of course the actual experience of a community like Leabank Square, whose residents suffered from the noise from the site over several years, didn't merit any attention from the excited abaters.

And they couldn't even get the ODA's full name right!

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West Ham to get hammered again?

As expected West Ham are the preferred bidders for the Olympic stadium. The usual claims of hundreds of jobs, legacy benefits, more visitors to the Park, social inclusion, community involvement and profit sharing if the club sells up accompanied the announcement. Actually, as with the rest of the Olympics, this has far more to do with property development and the prospects for making a killing on the redevelopment of the old Green Street ground. Of course, if the owners did sell out it might well be because the club was bankrupt or the owners were experiencing financial difficulties, they already have debts of over £80 million, so there might well not be any profits to share. As for the idea that a football club will attract more visitors to the Park I wasn't aware that many people visit Green Street because West Ham are located there. On the contrary, especially on match days it may have the opposite effect with people trying to avoid the crowds.

Interestingly though there was little discussion about the issue of who is going to pay for the stadium's alterations which are expected to cost between £160 and £200 million. Supposedly there is still a funding gap of £20 million. The present deal still requires public funds, including a loan from Newham Council, the issue which was at the heart of the collapse of the previous arrangement. In fact, Newham are now reported to be increasing their input from £40 to £70 million. Other bidders like Leyton Orient, who are still involved, were unhappy with this arrangement last time. If this was unacceptable then why should it be accepted now? Then there was also the anonymous complaint to the European Commission. Why should that not still be valid?

Will the saboteurchitecht step forward again?

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The not so inspiring Olympics

Far from inspiring a generation to take up sport it seems the Olympics has actually been accompanied by a decline in the level of participation among the target group of young people. Sport England's latest survey shows a decline among 16 to 25 year olds from 55.7% to 54% since the Olympic bid was won in 2005. Adults and women have shown an increase, with a leap in July and August, although the rise among women follows a fall in last year's survey. The main increases have been among the better off who already enjoy far higher levels of activity while the much lower levels of participation among poorer groups have barely changed. The original target set by the previous government was to get one million more people to participate in sport three times a week in the five years to 2013. They are still 500,000 from that goal.

None of this is particularly surprising as there is little evidence that holding a mega event will produce improvements in sport participation. That there is a flurry of activity around such an event is to be expected but the failure to produce even this excitement among young people is particularly disturbing. The real test will come in the next year or so to see if even the improvements seen in the immediate aftermath of the Games are sustained.

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'Cleaning' the city goes after the Olympics

In Egham, Surrey, miles away from the Olympic heartland of Stratford, local people are complaining that cameras installed on the A30 during the Olympics for the security of athletes staying at the University of London’s Royal Holloway College will be retained. The council at Runnymede, famous as the home of Magna Carta, has claimed ‘strategic’ reasons for retaining CCTV cameras stating that there is no need for a new planning application as the cameras are covered by permitted development legislation and that "The impact caused by the height of the cameras and poles is greatly outweighed by the advantages of retaining the cameras and their ability to support our CCTV work and the Surrey Police... in this strategic location."

Others, including local business people, disagree. Meher Oliaji, of Egham Chamber of Commerce, said: "It is a mistake. We think it is a retrospective justification for a decision that was made without being thought through. It isn't the sort of country we want to live in. It's the mentality of a police state."

The Campaign to Protect Rural England considered having five cameras on a short stretch of road, three of which were in the green belt, was wholly disproportionate. It said: "Now the torch that was carried through Egham has been placed in Chertsey Museum, these intrusive cameras are Egham's only Olympic legacy.”

In London during the months leading up to the Olympics mainline stations began to be patrolled by armed police. This happened, as Christian Wolmar complained, without any discussion or even public announcement. The Olympics provided excellent cover for the extension of this kind of policing. Since the end of the Olympics people have tweeted that they now see these armed police at St Pancras moving down into the Underground station.

In Stratford and Leytonstone, dispersal zones were created during the Olympics, which allowed the police to move on two or more people they consider represent some kind of threat to public order. These zones were extended into the post-Olympics period, although the zone in Stratford was modified to cover the West Ham Lane area rather than the immediate vicinity of the Olympic Park. The police stated of course that these extensions were nothing to do with the Olympics. Whether or not that is so the fact of the matter is events like the Olympics provide the opportunity for these kinds of actions to be tried out or put into effect on a larger scale to create what Chris Jones of Statewatch notes the authorities 'chillingly' refer to as a ‘clean city’.

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NAO rolls over on Olympics budget

Now the National Audit Office falls into line and says the London Olympics were completed 'within budget'.

With a regulator like this who needs spin merchants like the ODA and LOCOG?

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Olympics end but security stays the same

The Olympic Park remains a high security paranoia zone. It is still surrounded by the perimeter fence, although hopefully the electricity has been turned off. Anyone wishing to join an LLDC tour is sent a long list of IDs which visitors have to present before they can get on a bus. Bizarrely the A list includes a Freedom Pass alongside passports (with visas if needed!) and a variety of warrant cards. The B list includes birth, adoption and marriage certificates which are considered to be of equal value to a utility bill. Why it should be necessary to produce this kind of ID to be allowed on a bus (you’re not allowed to get off the bus) to go around the Park is unclear. But then these things have just become ‘normal’ now!

Despite the fact the athletes, the IOC and all those foreign dignitaries are long gone the ODA is also still using the same hair-raising language when describing all the things that visitors to the Olympic Park are not allowed to bring with them. Among the excluded items are harpoon guns, shotguns, crossbows, swords, sabres, grenades, plastic explosives, dynamite, mines, blowtorches, billy jacks, nightsticks, baseball bats. Do people normally wander around with these sorts of things when they visit places?

The fact that they have to list these real or imagined weapons reveals the continuing paranoid mindset of the Olympic organisers. It is hard, but admittedly not impossible, to conceal large weapons like crossbows, swords, shotguns and baseball bats. But the idea that listing them in this way makes some kind of sense is what is really disturbing. Maybe the Science Museum or the National Gallery would be happy for members of the public to bring in the odd grenade or two as they don’t choose to list all these forbidden items. Yes, sad though it is, I did actually check and their responses to my online requests were ‘0’ and ‘no’ results and, in the case of the National Gallery, a puzzled ‘make sure all words are spelled correctly’. But then where the Olympic Park is concerned perhaps a committed killer would feel obliged to argue at the entrance that as machine guns were not listed he (or she) should be allowed to bring one on to the Park!

Why the Olympic Park in its present state should require such controls is hard to understand. It is now just a building site which will, hopefully, in due course be open to the public. Or will local people be required to produce a passport to go swimming at the Aquatic Centre?

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A BT job or two for the locals?

BT has taken a lease on part of the Olympic Media Centre. Boris Johnson claimed 'hundreds' of jobs will be created, but elsewhere the Standard is a bit more precise. It says the agreement is for 300 jobs. So given that almost 5,000 jobs, which were done by local people, were moved out of the Park that means there are still some 4,700 or so to go before we are in positive territory. It is claimed that this is great for the local community and some of the jobs will be 'for local people'. I think we've heard that one before.

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Hosting a mega event parasite

Christopher Gaffney has written a great little piece 'Host and Parasite' on hosting FIFA's World Cup:

I would like to have a party at your house. This is a great opportunity for you. I won’t pay you anything, but really, your house is inadequate, unseemly even, so please reform it and beautify the streets. When I get there, no one else can come within two kilometers, a condition you will guarantee by force of arms. You are responsible for the music, drink, getting me and my friends there, telling others about it, and providing everything that I can think of, whether or not I have told you about it....

He sets out some of the principal clauses of the FIFA Host City Agreement with Sao Paolo, 'gems' as he calls them like the last one:

Section 33.18 –“The Host City waives any and all claims of liability against the LOC, FIFA and their officers, members, agents or employees for any loss or damage to the city whether or not such loss or damage may have been caused by or resulted from the negligence of the LOC, FIFA, [etc]…The Host City further indemnifies and hold harmless FIFA, LOC, broadcasters, commercial affiliates, external advisors and agents, [etc.]…from any and all obligations and liabilities, including, without limitation any and all claims, losses, damage, injuries, liabilities, objections, demands, recoveries deficiencies, costs, expenses which they may suffer or incur arising out of or in any way connected with this agreement, or any acts or omissions of the Host City hereunder. The obligations of the Host City set forth in this clause survive the termination of the agreement."

London's Olympics host city contract can be seen here.

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This might be a very small, very local Olympics legacy story...

At the end of July 2012 residents of Wick Village rallied to oppose ODA plans for the construction of a new bridge to cross the canal from Gainsborough School. The original bridge had been just for the use of children to get to their playing field on the opposite side of the canal at Arena Fields, a beautiful green space enjoyed by local residents which was destroyed to make way for the Media Centre. The new bridge, however, would include a ramp to allow for possible future public access to the bridge which would take away 30% of residents' communal space and leave the rest unusable. It also meant there was a danger their estate would become a through route for people trying to reach the Media Centre. Residents thought they had succeeded in defeating the plans when the ODA (not Hackney!) turned down the proposal.

However, things have followed a familiar pattern where the Olympics are concerned. After the latest meeting to discuss the revised plans one of the original objectors, Dee Dee O'Connell, tweeted:

'they're doing almost exactly the same thing as last time. Possibly worse.'

Back in July Dave Hill commented:

'This might be a very small, very local Olympics legacy story, but, whatever has gone before, the authorities should do all in their power to bring about an ending to it that leaves local people as happy as possible. That, after all, is what legacy is meant to do, and not only in Wick Village.'

Given the treatment of other small local communities like those at neighbouring Leabank Square, Leyton Marsh, Wanstead Flats and Clays Lane that may always have been a vain hope.

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