Kemp Rants No 1 – The Olympics

So that’s it then – no more Mr Nice Guy! Freed from the burdens of national office I can say what I really think about some sensitive issues. No more crawling to Mr Clegg to keep the Party on an even keel; no more lampooning of Pickles and Shapps as Laurel and Hardy all that is now Gerald Vernon-Jackson’s job. I am now a free agent!

So where to start with the numerous grumbles and mumbles that I have kept locked in my bosom for years? Well it was easy really – the Olympics. Prompted by a revelation in the London Evening Standard that the vastly overpaid bureaucrats at LOCOG have massively underestimated the amount of security needed and the Government will need to cough up an extra £125,000,000 to meet their under estimate.

I don’t just think that this is a waste of money – I think that the whole of the Olympics is a waste of money. A typical politicians testerone response to world events – let’s have a big one!

There will be two lots of winners from the Olympics:

Firstly our proud Olympians and Paralympians who will get their day in the sun and the opportunity to earn a rich reward of medals to recognise their devotion and hard work. But most of them would have got those medals anyway no matter where the Olympics were held. Yes a few more will get them because of the ‘home advantage’ but many of our people can and would win anywhere.

The real winners are the Labour leaders of the East London Boroughs who somehow managed to convince the Government and all sorts of other people that this would be a major boost for the country when in fact it will only provide a reasonable boost for their Boroughs. Well done people like Robin Wales and Jules Pipe who took this political leadership although based on our Liverpool experiences I am not convinced that will provide as much of a boost for their current population as they hope for.

The rest of the Country has lost out and in some cases big time.

  • Lottery funds have been stripped to provide ‘none-public’ money for this jamboree. All sorts of really important causes will have got less for a good few years because of the hollowing out for the Olympics. Scarce regeneration funds have been taken from the Country as a whole and heaped into the greater Olympic area. Yes East London needs cash but so does East Lancashire and East Kilbride. My guesstimate is that between the two funding streams above Liverpool will have lost more than £100,000,000 with no discernible benefit.
  • Londoners will suffer greatly. £200 fines for parking in the wrong areas. Special soviet style road lanes for getting important people and athletes to the venues. Already requests have gone out to have holidays whilst the Olympics are on because there will be overuse of the transport network. Big firms at Canary Wharf are coining up with strategies for home working and other ideas to keep their staff out of the office. These disruptions will not only be a nuisance but will also damage the productivity of the nation.
  • Londoners have also had to pay for this with a Special Olympics supplement to the council tax when it is clear that for most parts of London the disadvantages will be far greater than the advantages.

So what will all this achieve for the Country? In theory it will produce two things:

  • Good publicity which will lead to more tourism and more industrial and commercial opportunities. I have my doubts! ‘Ordinary’ tourists will not be coming to London in the run up to and during the games. The hotels will be full. Most hotels are charging massively inflated room rates for this period so the word will go back that London, already an expensive city, is even more expensive. Not much incentive there then. It will also fail to address the issue that London already attracts more than its fair share of international tourism because for many the perception is that there are only two cities in England – London and Edinburgh (yes I do know Edinburgh is in Scotland. This is not a problem for us in Liverpool because of our football clubs and the Beatles heritage but in many parts of the Country the international footfall is low and successive governments have failed to address these issues.
  • More young people taking up more sports and the country becoming healthier. There is no evidence from any other Olympics or major international sporting event than any up lift is more than temporary. With a spend of less than 1.5% of the total budget going on sports enhancement the effects of the London Olympics will be equally short lived.

So we have spent a fortune on what is basically a commercial event. I read somewhere that you won’t even be able to take your preferred brand of sugary teeth rotting drink into the games because one firm has a total monopoly because of its sponsorship.

Just think what we could have done if we had halved the money and spent it better. I think most of believe that if we had spent a billion on East London regeneration; a billion on marketing tourism and improving he tourist infrastructure nationally and a billion on improving sports facilities throughout the Country for all people the effects would have been greater and lasted longer than this 2 week surge of activity far from the day to day lives and opportunities o most UK residents.

We must have a proper evaluation of the Olympics which looks at what was done and what could have been done with the money. Only then can we avoid the trap of vain glorious bids for big events over short periods which fail to provide long-term benefits.

And another thing! Why is Newham pleased to be getting a new Westfield Centre? In my opinion…….. No that will have to wait for my next rant. Watch this space folks!

About richardkemp

Leader of the Liberal Democrats in Liverpool. Deputy Chair and Lib Dem Spokesperson on the LGA Community Wellbeing Board. Married to the lovely Cllr Erica Kemp CBE with three children and four grandchildren.
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2 Responses to Kemp Rants No 1 – The Olympics

  1. Gareth Hartwell says:

    Hi Richard

    Sorry that you feel that Liverpool has lost out from the diversion of Lottery funds to the Olympics – I can see your point on this. But I dont think you are reflecting the views of Londoners which are generally very different.

    But I dont think you should believe everything you read in the London press about Londoners being unhappy about Olympic lanes, lack of tickets, parking fines etc. The vast majority of people I talk to in and around London have overcome their initial scepticism and are now really looking forward to the Olympics – we’ve even been getting good crowds for the test events. And there are already loads more people cycling in Surrey in and around the proposed Olympic route a year before the start of the games. I’ve got back into cycling after years when I didnt via the challenge of getting up the Olympic hill on my bike (which I finally managed but it almost killed me!) And I’ve met loads of others who are doing the same.

    So I think you make a lot of good points about it not being fair that others in Britain are subsidising an event for London and the South-East. But even if you include the additional security bill, the overall bill for the Olympics is remarkably small compared to the typical experience of most Olympic cities and I think it is very likely that the boost to our economy will more than pay for this.

    I do have a concern about how the facilities will be used after the games. I’m glad that the stadium will be put to good use but I’m worried that the acquatic centre will be no more required in Stratford than the similar pool in Crystal Palace which was closed due to lack of use.

  2. Tom Barney says:

    I think you are right Richard. I divide my time between London and Lancaster. I shall be spending the Olympic period in Lancaster.

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