Olympic diary   

26 July
Half empty stadiums for the first two events of the London Olympics (in Cardiff and Glasgow).
Meanwhile the RAF send up a plane to intercept a civilian flight that was having radio problems.
It will get worse.

28 July
As predicted London is far from overwhelmed by the Olympics. What we didn't expect, however, was that many of the small number of visitors that there actually are, come with sleeping bags and live in tents rather than hotels. There isn't going to be much economic benefit from them. Meanwhile the stadiums (despite the ludicrous hype spewed out by the Olympics propaganda machine) are groaning under the weight of empty seats rather than spectators http://www.telegraph.co.uk/

Photo taken by Tom Murphy on July 28, 2012.

29 July
The Olympics gets weirder and weirder. The explanation for the vast numbers of empty seats is now that a lot of companies bought enormous numbers of tickets but their customers won't take them because they are frightened of corruption charges. Boy is this a desperate argument! It is time for the backroom workers in the Olympics propaganda machine to be given a cold shower and some time off work. At the last Olympics (in China) the audience was forced to go and see the event. It may come to that round here yet.
The concept is a masterplan in marketing. You put together a load of sports people don't want to watch (the tv channels would hardly ever give most of them air time, the popular ones are mostly second rate, and really successful sports like the modern Indian version of cricket or American Football just aren't there), lump them all under a successful brand, and then promote the brand (the Olympics) rather than the events. In media terms it's like the accumulation of toxic housing loans into a single large pot that is then given triple AAA status by the ratings agencies. That process came close to destroying the financial system. Will the Olympics destroy the BBC?

31 July
Olympics Hammer London Tourist Trade news.sky.com
Tourist firms say they are losing out as fans focus on the Games, casting doubt on an Olympics boost for the economy.
A taxi driver writes: At the height of this evening's rush hour, cabs were queueing in the street outside Euston Station waiting for a space on the rank. Fortunately I have some savings but for thousands the Games must be an economic catastrophe. Yet silence from the politicians who created this situation.
Jonathan Brind: Not just silence Dave. They are boasting about the disaster they have caused.
See http://news.sky.com/story/967156/

Strangely it's not just London that's suffering from the Olympics.
Olympics: Tourism down at Weymouth and Portland - Telegraph
Local businesses in Dorset are lamenting the worst summer season for half a century, despite the area
See http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/travelnews/9440832/Olympics-Tourism-down-at-Weymouth-and-Portland.html

1 Aug
Empty seats continue to blight Olympic events
French President Francois Hollande criticises Locog for giving away "too many corporate seats" as spectators tell Channel 4 News that rows of empty seats remain at some events.
see http://www.channel4.com/news/empty-seats-continue-to-blight-olympic-events

2 Aug
London 2012 Olympics: cyclist killed after collision with Games media bus

A cyclist has been killed after a collision with an Olympics media shuttle bus just outside the London 2012 complex.
The 28-year-old rider, who has not been identified, died after the accident on the slip road outside the Main Press Centre in East London just after 730pm on Wednesday night. Despite frantic efforts by paramedics, the cyclist was pronounced dead at the scene just over 30 minutes later.
A man in his mid sixties was arrested on suspicion of causing death by dangerous driving.
Witnesses reported horrific scenes after seeing the man lying underneath the decker-bus on the A106 about a mile outside the Olympic Park as his mangled white and chrome racing bicycle lay nearby.
It remained unclear on Wednesday night whether the cyclist was involved in the Games - either as an athlete, official or spectator - or was a member of the public. See picture and more information at http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/olympics/news/

3 Aug
Remembering some of the things destroyed to make way for the Olympics.

The Clays Lane Live Archive exhibition and event series at Supplement and the Bethnal Green Library marks the culmination of a four-year long research project by Adelita Husni-Bey, with invited curation by Shama Khanna. Working with ex-residents the live archive maps the history of the Clays Lane housing co-operative, its founding in 1982 and its demolition in 2007 ahead of the regeneration work planned for the London 2012 Olympic Games. http://www.supplementgallery.co.uk/exhibitions/clla/?utm_source=Supplement+Newsletter&utm_campaign=b0e1a158aa-Matthew_Musgrave7_10_2012

4 Aug
In Brazil, the host of the next Olympics, they see the damage to tourism, the economy and civil liberties caused by the event in London and shudder. It's their turn next http://www.mariliacoutinho.com/the-economic-and-social-cost-of-the-mega-sports-events-an-anti-olympic-manifest/

Marília Coutinho - The economic and social cost of the mega sports events: an anti-Olympic manifest.

"There are now officially more Olympic gold winners than there are tourists shopping in Oxford Street," Clive Anderson on Loose Ends, BBC Radio 4.

5 Aug

New software that processes large quantities of information from an almost endless range of data, including surveillance images, drone footage, electronic communications and health records, is probably being used to police the Olympics. "Palantir" has already won over intelligence agencies on both side of the Atlantic Ocean with its ability to assemble mountains of information and data for use in a cornucopia of causes.The CIA, the FBI, and the Department of Homeland Security are but a few of the software's biggest fans. In the USA at least, Palantir is being touted as a powerful tool in tackling scourges from terrestrial terrorism, drug trafficking and cyber hacking. http://www.thebureauinvestigates.com/2012/08/03/global-surveillance-industry-gets-a-new-toy/

6 Aug
In the run up to the Olympics the Government set targets for the expansion of sport in the community (the Olympic effect).

The government's prime Olympic legacy was to be an increase in the number of people participating in sport three times a week, of one million. In 2008 when this target was set there were thought to be 6.8m in this category.

Long before the Olympics opened this target was abandoned as it was clear that it could never be reached. Participation had increased by 2012 but only to 7.3m (up half a million).

In the significant age range (16-24) involvement in sport of any kind at any frequency, actually decreased. One reason is clearly the way the public sector is supporting (or not supporting) sport. One key example is swimming, with 430,000 fewer taking a dip in 2012 than in 2008.

Funding for everyday sport is being cut post Olympics. At Ive Farm, just half a mile from the Olympics, there's a sports ground that's been left idle for more than a decade. Prior to the games a huge amount was spent on this area, to create a strong fence to prevent kids from breaking in and playing football. The Olympics is a once in a lifetime opportunity to create a nation of couch potatoes. http://www.olympisstake.co.uk/
Meanwhile could the legal implications of the incredible shortfall in visitor numbers (and in commercial terms the lower value of sports fans than conventional tourists) become the dominant issue of the Olympics? See http://archipelago-of-truth.blog.co.uk/
for one example of mutterings of discontent.

7 Aug
With the Olympics proving to be a financial disaster for London, it's interesting to remember the rotten case made in the first place. Remember this was what would happen if things went right and things have gone very, very wrong: http://www.gamesmonitor.org.uk/node/1305
Another reason why the Olympics is turning into a once in a lifetime opportunity to create a nation of couch potatoes http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2012/aug/06/

8 Aug
Criticism (or indeed even mention) of most of the major issues created by the Olympics (in a nut shell with visitor numbers dramatically reduced and security everywhere, London is like an area under military occupation) has been stifled but it does surface sometimes, if in muted form: http://www.standard.co.uk/comment/after-the-olympic-ballyhoo-i-want-my-poor-city-back-8014929.html

    Britain and particularly London has proved itself capable of a seriously complicated enterprise. At staggering cost in outlay and disruption it has handled a sporting festival with panache. Building temporary stadiums in Stratford when others were going begging at Wembley and elsewhere was crazy. Shutting down Greenwich and Horse Guards Parade for the sake of a television backdrop was totalitarian. But it is spectacular. Britain's sportsmen and women are delivering their promised feelgood return. Politicians aching to share their glory owe them a debt of more than gratitude. They should stop closing local sports centres.

    What of poor London? It was told it could come to the ball but has been left out in the cold, all apart from Stratford's Westfield. Like Harold Abrahams's coach in Chariots of Fire, it had to sit in the street and hear the crowd roar from over the wall. It was assured of a "Games bonanza", a flood of visitors, business and boost. The shops would be crowded, the hotels packed, the theatres throbbing. It has not proved to be the case.
    London Evening Standard

9 Aug
With just a few days to go before the whole Olympic mess ends, London holds its breath wondering if business will return when the five ring circus leaves, or like other Olympic cities the down turn will continue when the jamboree moves on. Meanwhile some of the absurdities of the Olympics are highlighted in this American report How 'Unofficial' Condoms Upset Olympic Sponsors

10 Aug
Nearly 2,500 drivers have been hit with fines for using road lanes reserved for London 2012 Olympics VIPs, transport bosses have said. Transport for London figures show that £312,000 has been paid by drivers who were caught driving in the Games Lanes, despite being given a six-day period of grace when they were first introduced. Only warnings were issued in that time to give drivers a chance to get used to the idea. The 30 miles (48km) of lanes, used to transport athletes, officials and the media, were brought in on July 25. But last week, London mayor Boris Johnson admitted that many of the lanes had been "turned off" because they were not needed because so many were using public transport instead.

(In fact, Boris's statement was typical Olympics spin, i.e. a lie, since public transport has not been heaving with extra passengers thanks to drivers giving up their cars. In reality, London has been unusually empty as tourists keep well clear during the Olympics. Some have even described the city as a ghost town. It's been like an old fashioned Sunday every day!)

Britain's most decorated Olympian Sir Chris Hoy led a succession of medallists yesterday in warning David Cameron of the dire consequences of cutting funding for elite sport.

Hoy, who won his sixth gold medal in the velodrome on Tuesday, spoke out as ministers refused to guarantee that current levels of sports spending will be maintained. Funding for elite sport is set to be cut next year, leaving depleted resources when Team GB appears at Brazil in 2016 if it cannot make up the shortfall with lottery money.

11 Aug
With the Olympics PR machine in overdrive, slapping itself on the back for bringing economic disaster to London, it is hard to remember that even before the Olympics started, the impact it would have on jobs, businesses and tourism was clear. See http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/08/10/the-elusive-economic-lift-of-the-olympics/

The Elusive Economic Lift of the Olympics


If you love athletics, rampant nationalism or large economies bullying small ones, you've probably enjoyed the Olympic Games in London immensely. If you bet that the British government's predictions of economic benefits would come true, you're probably less happy.

But you shouldn't be surprised. Playing host to the Olympics rarely turns out to be an economic benefit for a country or city, and sports economists have convincingly documented how silly the expectations sometimes are, as Nick Watanabe of the University of Missouri did with regard to the London Games ("Yeah, so if we don't include costs, there is a profit").

Part of the faulty calculation is a disposition to focus on revenue and ignore many of the costs - particularly the indirect ones, needed to address increases in traffic and thus pollution; crime, littering and so on.

Partly it's the design of the modern games, and their emphasis on sexy venues that look good on TV. And the International Olympic Committee insists that running tracks and other venues be "just so," with little inclination to adapt to what's already there.

When the Bloomberg administration was pushing hard for New York City to get the 2012 Games, it insisted that a new Olympic stadium would need to be built on Manhattan's West Side - despite the presence in the metro area of three major stadiums. It also wanted to build a multimillion-dollar equestrian arena on Staten Island (which would be used for what after the Olympics?) despite the presence of Belmont and three other horse-racing tracks. (As recently as a few days ago, Mayor Bloomberg's point man on the Olympics, Daniel L. Doctoroff, trumpeted the positives of the project.)

Chicago, with the enthusiastic support of Barack Obama, pushed for the 2016 Olympics, and its officials said a new Olympic stadium was needed, despite two major-league baseball stadiums and Soldier Field, a football stadium (home of the Chicago Bears) that was recently renovated.

Of course, it's not just the Olympics. Many plans for publicly financed stadiums boast of the economic benefits, as Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani did when he had minor-league baseball stadiums built on Coney Island and Staten Island - two of the most expensive minor-league parks in the country. What they've done for the local economies is a matter of debate. So, too, the lovely Harbor Yards complex in Bridgeport, Conn., with a baseball/lacrosse field and a basketball/hockey arena that was supposed to revitalize the downtown.

Another piece of the faulty calculation of Olympic benefits is they often fail to acknowledge the displacement of other economic activity. The Greek government and Greek businesses invested billions of dollars to hold the 2004 Games - and while they drew full houses, tourism in Greece was down for the year, because so many people stayed away and many promised improvements were never made (though Athens did gain a much-needed subway system).

Think of it this way: the New Jersey Nets of the National Basketball Association are moving to Brooklyn and will play in the new Barclays Center (will it be renamed the Libor Arena?).

Can you imagine two parents saying: "Hey, the Nets are coming. Grab the kids; let's increase our family entertainment budget 35 percent!" More likely, people who buy Nets tickets will cut back on other sports tickets or eating out or going to a concert or a movie. In effect, rather than creating new economic activity, spending is shifted from one segment to another. Sports economists have been documenting this for decades.

And that's to say nothing of the cost overruns that come with almost every major construction project and the upkeep needed in subsequent years to keep athletics facilities clean, safe and functional. Sydney is spending millions each year. The wonderful velodrome built in London will undoubtedly be used by cyclists - but how many and how often and at what cost? Richmond, British Columbia, a suburb of Vancouver, built a speed-skating track for the 2010 Winter Games, at a cost of more than $170 million.

And finally there's the notion that an internationally celebrated and much-visited city - London, New York, Paris - needs to call attention to itself. As public schools are increasing class sizes and dropping music and arts programs, firehouses are being closed and infrastructure is failing, how does being the host of the Olympic Games makes economic sense?

13 Aug
At last the Olympics is over, or more or less over. Right now the media is indulging in slapping its own backs and saying that the critics got it all wrong and the Olympics was a fantastic success. But this "analysis" is crazy. The critics said there would be half empty stadiums, tourism would be down, business would suffer, sport in the community would be starved of resources and London would feel like it was under military occupation thanks to the extraordinary security. All these things happened and the damage to business and tourism was extraordinary. But London will probably bounce back.

What the Olympics propaganda machine (the BBC, for example, had a huge financial interest in making the Olympics a "success"), means is that thanks to the incessant, wall to wall media coverage, people who had absolutely no interest in arcane sports like dressage or formation diving, bought into Team GB's victories. Olympic fever really did exist.

It's an interesting phrase because, of course, it is like war fever. The heady wave of nationalistic jingoism is the closest those of us who have never lived through a major war, will ever come to experiencing the forces that led young men to volunteer to lay down their lives in the trenches in World War One.

Sport plus nationalism (which is what the Olympics is all about) is a toxic mixture and for that reason alone every sane and rational person should abhor the Olympics.

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