Let the games begone – lies, damned lies and legacy

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I might be a little late to the party on this one, but seeing as the world is about to be set alight I thought I’d better stick my oar in before the the Middle East is razed to the ground (again), and the NSA steal all my ideas and publish their own critical essays. They will know exactly what I have been researching as most of my “investigative journalism” starts with a google search. Don’t you just love the internet? You can write much as you like, with a load of online references to back you up, just as long as you don’t mind the CIA looking over your shoulder.

I know London 2012 was a whole year ago, but my bile has been raised by certain feelings, similar to my own, that are being expressed in that cradle of international sporting excellence, Brazil. When I say “sporting excellence” I do, of course, mean football. We British know that none of the other sports really matter, but we like to make a pretence of “inclusivity”.

Here is a very coherent anti World Cup argument made by some Brazilian bird.

Reuters report 1,000,000 Brazilians protesting on the streets of various cities.

I must admit to having ignored large sporting events for most of my life because I am not interested in sport and it just doesn’t pop up on my radar. Also, I can’t deny being convinced of the argument that these huge, signature events are good for the economy, the country and the people because I’ve never really thought about it before. Due to my own indifference, I accepted the popular view. However, seeing Will Self tear a strip off Tessa Jowell MP on BBC Newsnight in July 2011 made me think very differently about the amounts of money involved, the source of that money and the return on investment (ROI) on the promised “legacy”.

It’s all in the face and body language of Baroness Tanni Gray-Thompson at the beginning of the clip. Although she is now a member of the House of Lords, she is not a career politician and has not had the question-blocking and emotion-masking training that your average lizard-in-human-clothes has. She does her best to apologise for the elite element by trying to cover it up with the “hugely positive” aspect of the paralympics. However, Will Self is such a juggernaut of well-informed critical analysis that even Paxo, normally BBC Newsnight’s resident Rottweiler, just steps out of the way and lets him rubbish London 2012.

As far as we apathetic British are concerned, it’s our own fault. It’s not like we don’t have an example from history, Roman author Juvenal coined the term “bread and circuses” in his “Satires” (c100 AD).

However, my own epiphany of spiralling cynicism came when I saw this image (© The Times):


It turns out the Olympics is just an exercise in establishing and reinforcing commercial brands, and all at the expense of the the British public. Sheffield’s own poster girl has been raised to the status of a global brand face on the back of London 2012 and then bought up by a range of corporate businesses. The world of corporate sports sponsorship must have been thanking the Lord for delivering a decent bit of totty, and also making her good enough at the actual sport not to be yet another perennial disappointment like the string of pretty-but-mediocre tennis wannabes that Britain is so good at producing.

According to Marketing Magazine, “Ennis’s other recent endorsement deals have included Jaguar, Coca-Cola-owned Powerade, BA, Aviva and Procter & Gamble’s skincare brand Olay.”

Busy girl!

To be fair on Jennis, a professional sportsperson’s career is very short and she needs to load up on sponsorship deals now and once she’s retired, she can take the rest of her life to think about the ethics of it while she’s crying all the way to the bank.

She has, no doubt, signed a few non-disclosure agreements (NDA), aka gagging contracts, and it’s a shame we’ll never hear her side of the experience of being a corporate cash-cow. I can’t help feeling that she never looks entirely comfortable in front of that Santander branding wall, and I wonder what was going through her mind during the shooting of those awkward TV commercials with those other sportswear dummies, Rory McIlroy and Jenson Button.

You wouldn’t think McIlroy needed the money. At the time of going to press Forbes reports he’s worth $17.4 million although they don’t say over what period. Like it matters.

I guess after a certain threshold, when you no longer have to worry about the price of a pasty (hot or cold), the numbers start to be meaningless and it must seem like a diminishing return unless you can get more and more and more.

And here is the crux of it, these huge events are simply a way of corrupt government diverting public money into big fat contracts for large commercial organisations, who even had “branding police” patrolling the streets of London making sure no-one used their precious trademarks, such as the words “gold”, “silver”, or “bronze”.

Orwell imagined the Thought Police but the reality is far more frightening because it is just as invidious, but so bland.

Closer to home, the legacy of London 2012 has been so valuable to Sheffield, Jennis’ home town, that within six months of the games finishing it was announced that Don Valley athletics stadium, bearing her name on one of its grandstands, would close because the local council could not afford to meet the £700,000 yearly loss it was making. It turns out that watching elite athletes being faster, higher or stronger than us plebs can ever dream of has not been the inspiration of da nation.

Lord Coe, ambassador for London 2012, who also grew up in Sheffield, said “There is a legacy there, and it is actually quite a strong one, but this is for a local authority to decide.” Maybe that same local authority should have made a similar decision back in 1991 when it saddled the people of Sheffield with a debt of £685 million, the cost of hosting the World Student Games and when the Don Valley Stadium was originally built. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-south-yorkshire-14134973

According to BBC News, that debt will not be paid off until 2024, another 10 years after it is due to be demolished. What a valuable legacy that has turned out to be, not even including the annual losses the stadium has made. Maybe that £9 billion squandered on London 2012 could have been used to pay off the original debt, and even if the stadium had made a loss of £700k per annum ad infinitum, it could have kept Don Valley open for another 12,000 years. Now that would be a legacy, Lord Coe.


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