Formula 1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone says that London should simply abandon its 2012 commitments in despair at the majesty of the Beijing games. “I can’t see how anyone can follow that.” he said to the BBC. Which raises the question: if not London, then who? Was Beijing the last Olympics? Others in awe at the achievement of the People’s Republic of China have called on London to spend more on the games; to match Beijing’s budget.
London is budgeted to cost less than half the Beijing games, on paper. This doesn’t really take into account the difference in labour costs, or the difference in the compensations paid to those displaced by the construction work, or a host of other extra expenses caused by not staging the games in an authoritarian regime. So these comparisons are hardly relevant.
There are also those pointing out that the games were conceived in the 7 years of plenty, and now we are into the years of famine. In which case, the London Olympics could be an enormous stroke of good timing, providing a classic recession-busting hero-project, like the Hoover Dam, and cushioning London from the worst excesses of the global economy. Some 3,000 construction jobs have been created already, before much of the main work has even begun, and before the main purpose of the games – the regeneration of east London and the construction of thousands of affordable homes, has even been fully planned.
Apart from the ridiculous ‘feelgood factor’, the real lesson of something as apparently daft as the Olympics is that enormous collective projects are possible, and desirable, even if they do not intend to make a financial profit. And that therefore, if we can co-operate to do this, why not solve a lot of other, more pressing problems?
This is why the right-wing press need to trash the London Olympics, as they did the Manchester Commonwealth Games and every other major state-subsidised project from the NHS onwards. They contradict free market dogma, and therefore must not be allowed to succeed.
Beijing Olympics 2008