As many locals probably know by now, Royal Holloway University is set to be one of the locations where athletes competing in the London 2012 Olympics will live during their stay. The ‘Olympic Village’ for the kayakers and rowers (along with their trainers and officials) will be based there so the athletes can be near Dorney Lake, Eton, where their events are taking place. As we are finding out, the games are already proving to have many drawbacks for ordinary people.
First of all the government set aside over £9 billion of public money to be put into holding the games. This comes when the government tells us we are in times of austerity; when cuts are being made to education, to healthcare, to disability and housing benefits, to youth clubs…. and they think it’s a good time to have a knees up! £41 million of public money is being spent on the opening ceremony alone.
What has emerged recently is the controversy of the Olympic lanes in London. We were told in the beginning that these lanes would be for athletes and officials to get to and from events and training. Recently, however, it has been revealed that these lanes are being made available to sponsors such as Coca Cola and McDonalds and essentially anyone… if they’re rich enough to afford a pass.
Many Londoners, who will be trying to go about their daily business at the time of the games, are rightly hacked off that they’ll be stuck in traffic jams whilst sponsors and rich business types cruise past in their chauffeur-driven cars. One London cabbie, Jonathan Myers from the United Cabbies Group, remarked: “This is not the greatest show on earth. This is a jolly for elite people and we’ve all been mugged off here”. Too right we have.
Olympic-sized lies are cropping up here, there and everywhere. The government told us the games would have a legacy of job creation and more housing but in reality the jobs created for the most part will only last the duration of the Olympics and up to 1000 people’s homes in the Clays Lane Community area in London have been destroyed to make way for facilities.
The company selected by LOCOG (the Olympics organising committee) to deal with providing food for the athletes doesn’t exactly have the cleanest record either. That company is Aramark, a US-based company responsible for running canteens in prisons in the UK and in some detention centres. They hold a monopoly on the range of goods inmates are able to access and are thus able to charge sums far greater than what would be charged for products outside prisons. In their merciless pursuit of profit they have also often failed to pay wages to workers.
Public money has been thrown into something we didn’t ask for when there are more important things that need to be addressed. The billions of pounds that are to be spent on the Olympics could be better spent on projects elsewhere in bettering facilities and the quality of life in communities. But in the government’s selfish drive to raise the country’s profile and LOCOG’s pursuit for profit, the everyday survival needs of the population are being bypassed.
The Olympics is not a sporting spectacle for the people. Its main focus is profit and it’s further commercialising sport. Whilst the games don’t have the support of most Londoners, through the media the government has created an illusion of support with multiple stunts and novelties.
However, this is not a case of ‘oh shock horror, the government has put business and rich people’s interests before those further down the pyramid’. Rather the exact opposite is the point. It would actually be very surprising if the interests of those lower down the scale were put first. Is it any wonder that the interests of the wealthy, of those in business, are put first and foremost and the interests of ordinary people left to fall by the wayside when the economy is protected by governments no matter the cost? It’s the wealthy who fund their political parties, who run their outlets for propaganda and can put in a good word for them when they need it (the media). This being the case, did we really think the interests of ordinary people would be the government’s main concern for the Olympics?