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Dee Doocey - Scrutinising or Propagandising?

Dee Doocey, London-wide Lib-Dem London Assembly member, is chair of the Economic Development, Culture, Sport & Tourism Committee - the "lead committee scrutinising the Olympic Games".

"We will ensure the accountability of those in charge", she used to reassure us on her website - a claim that seems to have been withdrawn, perhaps due to impossibility of the task.

Unfortunately, she is instead helping propagate the rhetoric, exaggeration and misrepresentation of the Olympic promoters and doesn't find it necessary to check what she's told before repeating it.

This is not a personal attack on Dee or her politics - she's far from alone in being deceived by the hype - but surely if you have a mandate to scrutinise you should be sceptical of what you're told and not take it all at face value. If she reads this I hope she finds it educational - do contact Games Monitor, Dee, if you want to know what's really going on.

From Dee's Olympics page:

"The construction of the main 500-acre Olympic Park in the Lower Lea Valley in East London will create 10,000 jobs plus training and development for local people"

No-one can predict how many workers will be employed, and what constitutes a 'job' is unclear, as is the meaning of 'create'. The figure of 10,000 is therefore meaningless. The admission that only 115 local unemployed - a matter on which Dee herself commented - have found work on the Olympic site received considerable publicity, but is actually in line with the realistic forecasts in the 'secret' Arup 2012 Olympics Costs and Benefits report which calculated 669 local, full time equivalent jobs created over the life of the project. The ODA have refused to release the raw data underlying their employment figure claims, so they cannot be verified and must be treated with scepticism.

It should not be forgotten that over 5,000 people were employed in a wide variety of businesses located on the Olympic site before the bulldozers moved in an - an awful lot for an area she describes misleadingly as "one of the poorest and most derelict parts of London".

"A new park will be created - the largest new urban park in Europe in the last 200 years".

Dee should investigate the evidence before repeating these unfounded claims. Or talk to Mayor Robin Wales of Newham who has recently described it considerably more modestly as "the largest new urban park in London for a generation"

There are at least 2 new urban parks larger than the proposed 100 ha Olympic Park created just in the last 20 years: Duisberg-Nord Landscape Park in Germany (twice as big at over 200 ha, opened 1994) and Park Juan Carlos I in Madrid (50% bigger at 160 ha, opened 1992)

"The games will leave a legacy of new housing and transport improvements".

Legacy? How reassuring that something will be left behind after £10bn plus of public money has been spent. This cliche is a cunning way of giving the false impression we are getting something for free, and thanks to the games. In fact it's neither. These are necessities for a growing city, and paid for by the taxpayer. New housing is being built in London at the rate or 20,000 units per year, regardless of the Olympics. Transport improvements have to happen to cope with London's rapidly expanding population. And as property consultants CB Richard Ellis point out in their "London's Olympic Opportunity" report,

"The (transport) schemes planned for delivery before 2012 are not directly related to the Olympics, and the majority were planned well before the award of the Games to London".

"After the games, the Olympic village will provide 9,000 high quality homes".

9000? The ODA now state on their website that the Olympic Village "will be transformed into up to 3,000 new homes". In fact it's 2800. And since when did any developer claim to be building low quality homes? I'd stress again that these are being paid for .

"The environmental legacy will be that a vast 'brown field' site will have been decontaminated and wildlife habitats restored"

The 'decontamination' is for the most part the replacement of the top half-meter of soil, destroying the ecosystem in the process but leaving underlying contaminants in place. There are also substantial risks in the unnecessary excavation of mountains of contaminated soil.
Actually nearly half the site - allotments, Eastway Cycle Circuit, Arena Fields etc - was previously open space and thus is NOT classified as brownfield. Almost all the rest of the site was either in productive commercial use, providing housing or important wildlife habitat.

Many hectares of unique, wildlife-rich habitat has been systematically destroyed for the Olympics project, not 'restored'.

Dee gets hoodwinked on the Olympic construction site:

Dee Doocey and David Higgins"It all used to be a wasteland, as far as the eye can see..."

In the corporate 'blog' (not surprisingly one of the least trusted information sources), Dee describes going on a tour of the Olympic site with ODA Chief Executive David Higgins.

"We entered through the southern entrance and immediately saw the main Olympic Stadium emerging out of the ground. The construction of this building is quite a feat – it is twice the size of the Wembley Stadium (although with a similar seating capacity) but it’s only about half as tall. "

Actually it's smaller than Wembley. Wembley Stadium is 1000m in circumference with 90,000 seats. The 2012 Olympic Stadium is 900m in circumference with 80,000 seats during the games and a planned 25,000 after. I make that 10% smaller, not twice the size.

"East London was home to some of London’s most deprived boroughs 100 years ago, and there has been little improvement over the years."

This is such a daft statement it doesn't really warrant a comment. But I would suggest that life is just a little bit more comfortable for the average East Ender than it would have been a century ago.

As people in other, genuinely deprived parts of the country suspect, wards in Hackney, Tower Hamlets, Newham and Greenwich are in fact among the least deprived in the country for access to services according to the Government's "Indices of Deprivation for Wards, 2000".

The statement also attempts to perpetuate the Olympic myth that not a penny has been invested in East London since time immemorial. The truth is that £4bn was spent on regeneration projects by the London Docklands Development Corporation in the 1990s alone, with colossal additional private investment. £3.5bn was spent on the Jubilee Line. There's the £1bn Docklands Light Railway, the ExCel Centre, City Airport - East London has probably already received more inward investment than any other part of the country.

"But all that changed when London won the bid to host the Games. In the last 18 months, £3 billion has been spent installing new electricity and sewerage, improving transport, and cleaning up rivers and canals."

Actually the lights and toilets were working fine. No existing residents are perceiving any benefit from this - on the contrary they are suffering genuine deprivation as a direct result. None of this 'regeneration' spending is for them - it's to attract and enable the new developments with their wonderful new inhabitants.

Residents of Leabank Square and other nearby estates are deprived of sleep and clean air due to the relentless construction. They were deprived of their nearest open space and community orchard. The Manor Garden Allotments plotholders were deprived of their beautiful and historic gardens. Residents of Clays Lane were deprived of exceptionally affordable accommodation in a unique community. Many businesses evicted from the area have failed as a consequence, and a major area of local employment has gone.

Strangely, the "cleaning up rivers and canals" seems to be making them worse as anyone who's visited the Lea Navigation recently may confirm.

"Couldn’t this have been achieved with a series of small regeneration projects down the years? David Higgins believes that only a London 2012-sized project can provide the necessary coherence and determination. He explained to me that, without the Games, it is unlikely that this part of London could have been properly regenerated."

True, if your idea of 'proper regeneration' is driving all the existing community from the area and replacing it with a whole new population. Cataclysmic and total clearance is wasteful, socially, historically and environmentally damaging and highly unlikely to be successful.

"Security is tight, and technology enables fingerprint and iris recognition of staff".

According to Contract Journal , at the time of Dee's Olympic Park visit

"There was a lot of talk about the latest technology, but at the moment it's little more than checking a few documents and a gang of security guards patrolling the site."