By Alex Calvin
With the London Olympics on the horizon, public opinion seems to be turning swiftly against the international extravaganza. A recent poll says that 79% of Londoners believe the Olympics to be economically unsound, and I am inclined to agree.
In preparation for the Olympics, £9.345 billion has been spent on the regeneration of East London, and on preparing London as a whole for the Games. This includes the building of hotels and the infamous Olympic Stadium, which cost £486 million alone.
Thematically, the London Olympics have been focused upon sustainability, rejecting the famous images of the deserted arenas and Olympic village in Beijing in favour of sites that will be used over and over again. While there is no doubt that the Olympics will turn over a massive profit, something our nation sorely needs in the economic turmoil of the here and now, there is the question of non monetary profit.
While East London has benefited greatly from the regeneration programmes prior to the Games, many local landmarks have been torn down in favour of hotels for tourists. In the short term, this has a good effect: bringing tourists in, giving them somewhere to stay and a base to come back to when they are not spending money at the Games.
I believe, however, more damage might be done in the long term, given that these hotels will not have extensive use after the games, and the landmarks that have been torn down to make way for them are now gone forever. The historic Greenwich Market Place was nearly torn down to make way for hotels and a shopping mall. This is not in keeping with the theme of sustainability, and culturally, it is the exact opposite. Already, there are currently 120, 000 unwanted hotel rooms in London. These have gone back on sale in hope of regaining wasted money.
There are plans for special traffic lanes for VIPs, with cars that will have the power to change traffic lights in their favour in order to allow quick access to the games for the media and sponsors in the event of delay. Fines of £200 are to be issued to normal motorists if they are caught using the ‘Game Lanes’. In the name of easing congestion, I can understand this, but fining members of the public is obscene. These ‘Game Lanes’ are on top of the 40, 000 hotel rooms block booked by the London Organising Committee, for the same VIPs. This is all paid for by money set aside for the Games, including the elevated council taxes in parts of London.
This is ‘The People’s Olympics’ and it seems more and more that residents of London are getting an increasingly harsh deal from the Games being held in their city. In the short term, tourists will come and lay down their money, but afterwards, it is the residents of London who are going to have to deal with the damage done by the games, fearing more one-use ‘white elephant sites’ like the Millennium Stadium.