Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Cashing in on the Olympics

One thing is certain - the soaring costs of the 2012 London Olympics, with a final bill of perhaps £8 billion compared with a bid figure of £2.4 billion – will not fall on the big corporations who will cash in whatever happens. Because make no mistake, the modern Olympics are just one big commercial feast, with sport coming a long way second. The modern Olympics are essentially a golden triangle, between the International Olympic Committee, the media and sponsors. By the time the Games get going, the sponsors' logos will be everywhere, on everything from transport to burgers. The superbrands of the world will, of course, be able to buy official sponsor tags for premium prices. Everyone else will be barred by laws already passed that restrict the ability to advertise and trade in the vicinity of the Olympic venue. Already, the use of the famous five rings is banned unless it is officially authorised. Most of the revenue for the Games comes from the sale of world-wide TV rights. These are negotiated by the IOC, an organisation with a long track record of corruption. The media then gets to have a huge say about when events are staged to maximise TV audiences. The commercialisation of the Games has also compromised the actual events themselves. Pressure on athletes to perform as a route to earning large sums of money from sponsors is a major factor in the increased use of performance-enhancing drugs. Add in the fact that we will still in the middle of the so-called “generational war” on terror (courtesy of T.Blair) by 2012, and you get the picture of a Games surrounded by the army and police and sponsored by Nike and CBS TV. A mouth-watering prospect indeed.

In London itself, the plans for the Games are already taking their toll on people who live in East London. Travellers, allotment holders and small businesses are being uprooted by the secretive and unaccountable Olympic Development Authority that was set up by the New Labour government. Large-scale regeneration of the run-down area is promised, with new jobs and housing. Housing conditions in the area are some of the worst in Britain but only one-third of the planned new home will be affordable, while the rest will go to those who can buy on the open market. The quality and future of the Olympic facilities is also in question, with architect Lord Rogers attacking plans for the main stadium as second-rate. Meanwhile, plans to revitalise the Crystal Palace sports stadium in south London, which is falling apart, have been put on hold by the Mayor of London until after the Olympics. No doubt other urgent projects will go the same way as the cash runs out and Londoners are asked to pay through the nose to meet the final bill. Of course it’s great to have the Games in London – but not on this basis. Free them from commercialism and sponsorship and divert the resources from the Iraq /Afghanistan wars to pay for a real public-spirited event, accessible to all, and the 2012 Games would really be something to look forward to.

Paul Feldman, communications editor

1 comment:

Martin Slavin said...

To keep in touch with developments of the forthcoming invasion of the Five Ring Circus into the Lower Lea Valley in East London check out our website at

From our 'About' page:

Games Monitor is a network of people raising awareness about issues within the London Olympic development processes.

We want to highlight the local, London and international implications of Olympic processes. We seek to deconstruct the 'fantastic' hype of Olympic boosterism and the eager complicity of the 'urban elites' in politics, business, the media, sport, academia and local institutional 'community stakeholders'.