Posts Tagged ‘olympics’

The unsung hero of our golden Olympic summer is…John Major

06/09/2012, 07:00:54 AM

by Peter Watt

Rightly over the last few weeks we have marvelled at the sports that we have witnessed during the Olympics and currently at the Paralympics.  If we were worried about whether we could pull it off as country before, then now all we can do is push our chests out and rightly gloat.  We did it!

It is difficult to find anything that has not gone well and the memories that we are left with are sublime.  Mo Farah, Jessica Ennis, Bradley Wiggins, Ellie Simmonds, David Weir; we will all have our favourites.  It has been a sporting experience that is being shared in some shape or form by the majority of the population.

The rest of the world has rightly looked on and has been impressed by our organisation, by our sporting success and by the sheer joy with which we have embraced the games.

Inevitably there have been some rather lame attempts to get political kudos from all of this.  Labour has mentioned “once or twice” that it was a Labour government that had the courage to secure the games in the first place.  The Tories have made much of the fact that the delivery was completed on time and on their watch.  They have also hoped that a national focus on the weeks of glorious sport would give them a break from the relentlessly bad news of the previous months.

Our politicians have had photo-ops with athletes and with supporters.  They have presented medals and flowers to winners.  Twitter has been full of the political community discussing the multiplicity of sports and publicly congratulating our sporting greats.  The hope was that the greatness and feel-good factor would rub off.  It worked for Boris but definitely not for George or Theresa.

In fact I suspect that the booing of George Osborne may become an enduring and defining impression.  But that aside, on the whole, the activities of our politicians have thankfully gone unnoticed during the sporting festivities.

But I have been inspired by the spirit of fair-play embodied by the Olympians and Paralympians.  And in that spirit, there seems to me to be one politician above all others who can justifiably feel self-satisfied at the role that they have played in the success of London 2012.

And that is John Major.

John Major has somehow been written out of history by many in politics.  Certainly the Tories don’t really talk about him or his term in office.  And Labour isn’t that bothered about referring to the Major years either.  It is almost as if nothing happened politically between 1990 and 1997 that really matters anymore.  Surely it was all about sleaze, internal fights over Maastricht and assaults on John Major’s leadership?


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As party conference season approaches, have these political menageries ever been less relevant?

16/08/2012, 07:00:39 AM

by Peter Watt

So the Olympics are over and the Premier League is about to start (apologies to Scots readers, I know that the SPL has already started).  We have the fantastic Paralympics to look forward to and possibly even a little bit of late summer sun.

But, for the political world the next few weeks are the calm before the conference season madness begins.  Already political obsessives will be beginning to think about their conference itineraries.

The odd invite or two for receptions will have arrived in advance of the tsunami that will hit from early September.  Labour colleagues will be secretly smiling at the excitement of the priorities ballot; they will be wondering about this year’s conference slogan and keeping their fingers crossed about the leader’s speech.  For what it’s worth I predict that the words “fair” and “future” will feature large.

For activists, attending conference is a mix between a holiday and a religious vocation.  Party democracy is revered, the rule book studied, senior politicians are scrutinised and friends socialised with.

Anyone who is anyone makes sure that if they possibly can be there then they are.  People who would never normally willingly forego their middle class comforts are suddenly prepared to sleep on floors and worse if it means that they can attend.  If you can’t be there then you find yourself guiltily justifying yourself by saying “no, but I will definitely be there next year”.

It costs a fortune in travel, accommodation, food and of course booze.  But for a whole week of your life you feel at the centre of the world as the stories that emerge from the conference dominate the news and it’s worth every penny.  And you hungrily devour the news morning, noon and night while you’re there to make sure that the hugely important events that you are witnessing are covered fairly.

Which of course they never are; as while the conference that you are attending is always united friendly and optimistic, those rats from the press insist on reporting splits and rancour.


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Sorry Tessa, there’s no justification for spending more on elite sport

10/08/2012, 07:00:03 AM

by Kevin Meagher

The Olympics provides us with an interesting quandary. Is spending money on our top athletes really a good return for the country?

Tessa Jowell thinks it is. Yesterday she echoed an appeal by Olympic gold medallist Sir Chris Hoy who wants to see continued investment in elite sports.

“Chris Hoy is absolutely right” she said. “It has been the investment in elite training which has created stability for high performance training for those athletes. We have got to make sure that money continues.”

On its website UK Sport says “more than £100 million per annum is being invested directly into the UK’s high performance system’ through a combination of ‘Exchequer and National Lottery funds”.

A further £58 million is spent on “providers of the key services” that underpin elite sports while the “Team 2012” scheme tries to lever-in private funding.

It would be churlish not to concede that Tessa and Sir Chris are right in their analysis: investment in sporting infrastructure and elite programmes has clearly helped Britain to a medal tally few thought likely a fortnight ago.

But apart from the athletes themselves and a small supply chain of trainers and managers, who else benefits from this taxpayer-funded largesse? What’s the return for the county?

I let that theoretical question hang there for a moment because I honestly can’t think what it is. We may all celebrate the achievements of British Olympians and readily pay tribute to their industry and example; but outside the Olympic bubble we continue to face the biggest retrenchment in public spending in a century and an economy in the deep freeze.


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The Sunday Review on Monday: the Olympic park

06/08/2012, 07:00:55 AM

by Julianne Marriot

A day out in the Olympic park is a bit like being at a brilliant blockbuster exhibition, but with a niggling feeling that you forgot to pick up the guide.

The 2.5 sq km (about the size of 350 football pitches) Olympic park is the backdrop for the business of the day; watching 15,000 people become Olympians and Paralympians. The legacy plan (or is that sustainability?) is that the athletes “inspire a generation” and the park grows into a world-class visitor destination.

In a reversal of history, à la Boyle, the turf here was laid, rather than rolled away. The dark satanic scrap yards were junked and pylons demolished. Meadows, waterways, frolicking ticket holders and “art and culture” were created.

For a park there’s a lot of hard surfacing, but the greenery goes a long way. It neutralises the functional concrete flyovers and the goods trains, cutting through the park, seem congruent, like being in the countryside and spotting a steam train in the distance. Near the Orbit, people bend down to touch the perfectly tousled luxurious grass and admire the regimented randomness of the banks of yellow gold flowers.

Massive screens are anchored into the de-canalised river Lea, watched by people sunbathing or sheltering under umbrellas on the sloping manicured lawns. In the far north of the park the “culture” on offer at the bandstand goes largely ignored. It could be because people aren’t here to see musicians, or these particular musicians, but many probably don’t know it exists. It’s a really secluded spot.

The determination to create a relaxed atmosphere, with a lack of officious “keep off the grass” signs and corridor monitors, allowed people to make little shortcuts through the wild flowers to reach the elevated Olympic rings. Crowd control barriers now corral the wild flowers. The non-interventionist approach is laudable, but trusting people to go the long way round seems naïve. A few extra paths and some gentle reminders may have stopped the destruction.

The narrow, but exuberant, strip of the 2012 gardens, opposite the aquatics centre, is divided into temperate regions. The signs are discreet, so discreet it’s unlikely that most people notice them or the concept.

Looming behind Gary’s shoulder, the blowsy, Marmite, 115m tall Orbit doesn’t need signposting, although it could perhaps do with explaining. RUN, by Monica Bonvicini is less ambiguous. The chunky, nine metre tall, mirrored letters can be seen across the park. But up close they’re subtle, with unexpected reflections that just a handful of people are playing with and capturing for prosperity.


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The Olympics: a 2.4 sq km project that will benefit the whole of the UK

23/12/2011, 07:30:47 AM

by Tessa Jowell

It’s understandable that in these tough times, as the economy falters and as we hit olympic year, people are of course going to ask is all the spending on the olympics worth it, as Kevin Meagher did on Uncut recently.

It’s right too, that we ensure that the legacy promises we made in government are fulfilled: to transform the heart of east London and inspire a generation of young people through sport.

But Kevin’s polemic misses some key facts about Labour’s reasons for bringing the games to the UK and the reality of what is happening on the ground.

First, it’s just not true that most of the jobs have gone to non-UK residents. The latest figures show that 64% of workers on the olympic park are British citizens and 90% are EU citizens. Contrary to Kevin’s view that local people are not benefiting, 25% of the jobs have gone to residents of the six host boroughs, beating the target of 15% by a good margin. 82% of the olympic park workforce are paid the London living wage or over. While the Tory-Lib Dem government does its best to undermine people’s living standards, here’s one project started by Labour that is still creating social justice.


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The Olympics: ten times the disaster of the Dome

20/12/2011, 11:38:23 AM

by Kevin Meagher

I don’t often find myself in agreement with Diane Abbott, but I have cut out her piece from the Independent about the olympic games and pinned it above my desk, so I can read it over and over again while weeping tears of joy.

God bless the woman. She hit the nail on the head, articulating what I have been murmuring to myself for the past couple of years: the 2012 Olympic Games is a dreadful, expensive pile of tosh. Diane didn’t quite put it like that; she is a London MP after all and it takes more bravery for her to diss the games than it does for a chippy northerner like me; but it was a good effort on her part – worthy of a podium spot.

Diane rightly bemoans the “missed opportunity” of not employing more local people in building the games’ infrastructure, saying the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) was “never serious”  about giving opportunities to local people, which may indeed have been a smart move to help avert this summer’s London riots.

Instead the jobs created by the ODA have gone mainly to outsiders, with workers being bussed-in from all across Europe. (more…)

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Crowdsourcing the mayoral selection: Ken Livingstone

03/09/2010, 11:00:07 AM

Ken Livingstone: Time traveller

Assassination, time travel and giant humans are his weapons. Though there’s very little mention of Oona, Ken’s other opponents are clearly defined; he still bears the scars. There is a great pile of fancy biscuits in one of the rooms that makes up Ken’s campaign offices, proudly proffered by the spin doctor. Amid the phonebank volunteers plenty of Yesweken badges are strewn around. There is even a glass wall of red roses and Labour logos.

A tanned Ken arrives and launches into the questions with a swig of strong, black coffee. He’s friendly in his racontes, but sometimes he looks down and gives a wicked little laugh. Ken talks to Uncut about London politics, buying snakes, being a pharaoh and drops a couple of C-words along the way (one of them Crocs). Settle in; everything with Livingstone is a story.

Q. So, Ken. We ask the questions that people send in…

A. I know. I won’t blame you for the questions.

Q (from Micheal) What are your biggest regrets from your last spell as mayor of London?

A. Not putting out a contract on Veronica Wadley, the editor of the Evening Standard. Because she could have been taken out before that campaign started and I might have been re-elected. But it’s a real risk having your opponents bumped off. If it comes out it’s very embarrassing.


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