Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Afterglow of the Olympics

No matter your opinion on bidding and winning the Olympics, or the cost to taxpayers, the real concern is what we'll be left with once the party leaves town. It is certainly a great start to see the coalition delivering on its pledge to get competition back in and between schools via the Schools Olympics. The mind-boggling work at Stratford, meanwhile, is on budget and on time (at the moment). But then so was the Dome.

Buildings will help East London’s regeneration, but will not deliver 2012’s promised inspiration for society in general. That can only be achieved by engaging people throughout the UK and NI in something more than just buying a ticket, contributing time as a volunteer or just watching from the sofa, McDonalds in one hand, Coca-Cola in the other.

Britain promised to use these Games as a magical means of engaging communities through sport. Doing so would, after all, complete a circle that started in the community games of Much Wenlock, providing a certain M. De Coubertin with his own inspiration.

This public policy area, mass participation sports legacy, was rightly flagged up in opposition by both coalition parties as one where Labour's approach of targets and micro-management failed miserably. Labour's broken policies created a situation where, five years after winning the bid, more people in Britain are sedentary than ever before. The Times last week trailed an apparent and laudable end to the arbitrary targets.

Hugh Robertson, meanwhile, has already proved adept in implementing the common sense principle of value for money. Gone is the wasteful subsidy for across-the-board Free Swimming for certain age groups, regardless of the ability to pay.

What is to be the new approach? When cutting Free Swimming, the Minister said he would provide the answer by the end of July. And is Sport England, a quango with an established record of misspending and failure even fit to deliver? To make the challenge harder still, despite mitigation from an increased share of the lottery, as per the coalition agreement, grassroots sports funding will still have to be reined in.

There is some scope for optimism, however. The area seems ripe for the application of Big Society principles. The delivery of local sports is already a perfect exemple: clubs are usually social enterprises, run by volunteers to serve their communities, delivering health and social benefits for all at relatively low cost. Sport may yet inspire a better way for us to live. And the Olympic Games may yet prove to be the platform by which that lesson becomes evident.

And just as an afterthought it seems that things are coming together so that the Olympic Stadium will have a proper use after the Olympics. Negotiations between the Olympic authorities and West Ham United are now progressing apace and hopefully a deal will be done which is acceptable to all parties.


Richard said...

We must learn the lessons of past mistakes with Olympic stadiums and not allow ours to lie wasted and empty after the games. The Greek Olympic legacy is a fine example of what we should avoid. The stadium should become the home of West Ham United who will work with Essex Cricket and other sports to make the stadium an all year round success. The stadium cannot be reduced down to 25,000 and made to be the home of Athletics, that would be a monumental waste.

mirthios said...

Wembley Stadium was "on time and on budget" and was delivered nearly a year late.

Budget? You mean that thing that has trebled from £3,000,000,000 to £9,000,000,000? That isn't a 'budget', it's a slush fund.

Earwigo again!!

Goodwin said...

Perhaps we can use the olympic village to house all the unemployed Turks who will start flooding in as soon as Dave gets them into the EU? Does our new Prime Mentalist really think the majority of the British people want Turkey in the EU? For once we will have to rely on the good sense of France and Germany to keep them out.

Nick Drew said...

Meanwhile - what ever happened to the jobs ?!

Male unemployment has been rising faster in Newham and surrounding boroughs than in London or the UK as a whole !

See our analysis here.

Osama the Nazarene said...

The Dome has left a superb legacy in the O2 centre. Law of unintended consequences in action there.

DespairingLiberal said...

The experience at almost every Olympics (Los Angeles was the exception because it was allowed to be run along ruthlessly commercial lines) is that the event is a staggeringly costly activity to the host country which has no long-term effect and no net gain for either sports or economic life. The real beneficiaries these days are the product advertisers. The "sportspeople" themselves are mere testbeds for smart detection-avoiding drug manufacturing specialists. The medals go to those drugs that achieve the most without being discovered. International audiences of intelligence have long since stopped watching.

Lucky Britain to have this costly event. I wonder what will be next - perhaps a Concert for BP?

Dick Puddlecote said...

"clubs are usually social enterprises, run by volunteers to serve their communities, delivering health and social benefits for all at relatively low cost"

Shame, then, that we deter such volunteers by assuming they are a paedophile and making them apply for a different CRB check for each club they volunteer to help.

Roger Thornhill said...

" The area seems ripe for the application of Big Society principles."

Translation: swap one unaccountable clique for another.

If there is state funding, it will not be truly voluntary or from society, for there will the the irrepressible temptation for the State to create monopolies. From those monopolies comes the stifling of innovation and the creation of arrogance and a sense of entitlement.

Get out of the way of people wanting to form things, yes, great, but still loitering about handing out taxpayers money kidding people this is all pluralistic volunteerism? Please.

simon said...

There is nothing easier than taking exercise: go for a walk, buy a bike, join a football team, go to a gym (municipal ones are cheap).

If people don't want to exercise, or can't be bothered, I'm not sure that the government can make them.

Dr Evil said...

I'm sorry Ian, but seeing a bunch of blokes or women running in circles for a few minutes and the winner winning by 100th of a second is really extremely boring. Most track and field events are. They are much more interesting if you participate, but of course only the best of he best get chosen for the Olympic games and quite rigfhtly. Other than that though, unless there is a spectacular opening, it's yawns all round.

Mirtha Tidville said...

I think Despairing Liberal has well and truely summed it up..I think millions in this country will agree with you..

There is an article in todays Telegraph saying that the tickets will go on sale soon and will be by ballot as they expect such a huge demand..I`ll have a pint of whatever they are on..

Trust me, well north of Watford its regarded with almost complete disinterest as just something `happening in London` thats going to cost us all a fortune for years to come..

Still I think `The Hammers` will be able to put the stadium to good use unless Spurs nip in first eh Iain!!!!

voiceofourown said...

"The Dome has left a superb legacy in the O2 centre."
And, in that tradition, the Olympics is yet another gift to the wealthiest part of the UK from the hinterland.
I'm sure the 'schemies' in Liverpool and the crofters in Shetland are delighted with their investment.

Chris Paul said...

UK and NI? You mean GB and NI? NI is part of the UK. Some would say more's the pity, but there you go.