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A Bangladeshi view of the Olympics

.: © Martin Slavin.: © Martin Slavin

By Martin Slavin

Abjol Miah was, until election day, the leader of the six Respect Party councillors on Tower Hamlets Council. He was standing as the Parliamentary candidate for the constituency of Bethnal Green and Bow. I recently met him while Bangladeshi Respect members were campaigning in Whitechapel Market for him and their three candidates for election as councillors to Whitechapel ward. I spoke to him later about his views on the impacts of the Olympics project on their area.

Holding the project to account for their promises is a continuing concern. “ I want to ensure that my constituents are well informed, that they are not sold a lie, then told its all finished and gone. When the LDA came over for consultation I asked them very simple questions. Was there any evidence that legacy worked in any of the other Olympic cities? They wouldn't answer me. People do not know who to go to to get a critical view.”

Saidul Alam promoting Abjol Miah: © Martin SlavinSaidul Alom promoting Abjol Miah: © Martin Slavin

“ The 2006 Olympic Act prevents us from using their logos. When I raised this issue in a council meeting the councillors were shocked and surprised that businesses could not even use the word 'Olympic'.

We do not know what kind of contracts are being taken up by local firms. They have not sat down with the local business community so we are going to have to stand up for ourselves. It appears that there is only one council officer dealing with these issues. It doesn't feel like an Olympic borough in Tower Hamlets. Not more than 3% of jobs have come to residents. We know that some of these are outsiders who have rented properties in Tower Hamlets.

I have not heard anything in the borough about which company is recruiting volunteers or where volunteers should go to. They are not using the grass roots community and local organisations. Why are they not using the local sports federations, to empower them so they can get involved? That is not happening to my satisfaction.

We have a big sporting community in Tower Hamlets. Its a young population and Judo and Taikwondo are very popular here. These clubs are struggling because they have no financial support and many parents can't afford to send their children. Two students looked at all the sports facilities in Tower Hamlets and found that provision was extremely poor. There is no direction.

This Olympics is costing a lot of money. Everyone knows we are paying for it. Is it going to be easy to get a ticket to actually watch the games in a stadium and not just watch it on the telly? What respect is being given to the vulnerable communities here? Is it going to be affordable to go and see?

If there is housing available within the Olympic site we are demanding that we are able to reduce our waiting list from there. Our poor housing situation has been going on for many years. The majority of the Bangladeshi community have been living in overcrowded conditions. The Registered Social Landlords [Housing Associations] have been a big pain for us in this borough. We have campaigned to stop some of the stock transfers. I have not seen a single person on the housing waiting list buy a so called 'affordable' house. Affordable housing is for outsiders coming in to the borough. We are demanding that there should be a major investment for housebuilding particularly for family sized homes.

After the election I want to take serious consideration of getting the local community to ask serious questions about getting good delivery in legacy. Will the recruitment companies come and will it just be the able capable people who will be able to make the most of it? Most people think we are not going to benefit from the Olympics. I personally think we are being skanked by the Olympics."

Tower Hamlets election results

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