London 2012 : The Olympics: A Viable Alternative

With only days to go before the official opening of London 2012, it is not just taxi drivers and TfL officials who are feeling a little disgruntled. In his new book, Mark Perryman outlines exactly what is wrong with the modern Games, and offers some potential alternatives.

Grey Sky Thinking. Many in Britain are pessimistic about the Olympic legacy.
Grey Sky Thinking. Many in Britain are pessimistic about the Olympic legacy.Foto: dapd

Seb Coe and the London Olympics Organising Committee, David Cameron and his predecessors Gordon Brown and Tony Blair. All of them cling to a bipartisan consensus that everything to do with the Olympics is fine, nothing the International  Olympic Committee and their corporate sponsors demand needs to be questioned. It was a consensus which in London managed to unite apparent polar opposites - namely the maverick Tory candidate for Mayor Boris Johnson and the hard left Labour Candidate Ken Livingstone - in solid agreement that the Olympics would be without doubt a good thing for the city.

Add the sports media, led by the BBC, which appears to have had all critical faculties surgically removed in the cause of Olympic cheerleading, to amplify this all-embracing mood of agreement. Yet the discontent outside the parliamentary and media bubble is very obvious. It is not an organised campaign of resistance,  but on issues ranging from the lack of tickets to the privileges enjoyed by the IOC and sponsors, there is a mood of discontent. Whilst more broadly, there exists a deep-seated popular cynicism that the Games won’t provide much of the promised benefit. It is a discontent that is barely reported upon yet its basis is well-founded. There is scarcely a scrap of evidence from any previous Games of economic regeneration or a sustainable boost in employment. Not one recent Olympic host nation can point to an increase in sport participation levels as a result of the Olympics. And as for tourism, the Olympics leads to a decrease in visitors not an increase as the Travel Industry , which has no reason at all not to be one of the Games’ biggest supporters, has repeatedly pointed out.

Despite all this, not one politician, nor a single sports administrator, none of the well-resourced think-tanks, and no journalist or broadcaster has come up with a  plan for a better Olympics for all. This is what my book, "Why The Olympics Aren’t Good For Us, And How They Can Be", uniquely sets out to do.

I love sport; my book is not in any sense anti-Olympics, and I joyfully admit I will be amongst the first to be consumed by the excitement of the Games once they begin. But I also firmly believe that they could have been so much better. The discontent with how London 2012 has been organised to the effective exclusion of the many who could so easily have have been part of them is far too important to ignore as the Gold Medals are hung around Team GB athlete’s necks.

My ‘New Five Rings’ are really quite simple. They're founded on the core democratic principle that, to make a ‘home’ games worthwhile, they must be organised with the objective that the maximum number of people must be able to take part. If not, then it's the remote control and the sofa for most of us, and thus the Games might as well be anywhere else but here, minus both the expense and the inconvenience.

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