Plans to reveal yet another statue.

The Camden New Journal yesterday uncovered plans to erect a statue of Christ the Redeemer on Primrose Hill. The statue will be a tribute to the one overlooking Rio de Janeiro, to celebrate passing on the torch (pun begrudgingly intended) to Brazil for 2016.

The Brazilian government would fund the project, and a planning consultancy based in London has been employed by Brazil’s tourist agency to hold a public meeting to display the designs before applications for planning permission are submitted.

The Camden-based design company See Me, Hear Me, Feel Me did not want to discuss the plans, and the Brazilian government was unavailable for comment, but Primrose Hill Lib Dem councillor Chris Naylor said he wasn’t sure a 30ft statue of Christ with his arms outstretched was quite what the area needed.

Other statues to celebrate the Olympics have been erected around Britain, often to the displeasure of residents. The ‘Jurassic Stones’ statue, by Richard Harris, has been greeted with horror by residents of Weymouth, Dorset. The Stones’ £335,000 bill pales in comparison to the £19m spent on Anish Kapoor’s ‘ArcelorMittal Orbit’, on site in Stratford.

 

Many people question why so much money is being spent on statues to celebrate the Olympics, and whether it is appropriate in the current economic climate. The term ‘Legacy’ has always been used to describe the impact of mega-events like the Games: urban development, social, economic and cultural changes are words often thrown around in relation to the Legacy. However, the term has been re-appropriated by critics of the Games and become somewhat of a joke. The Legacy that does seem to be taking shape is symbolised in the statues cropping up around the country – abstracted, distorted, and expensive.

The real Olympic Legacy will be towering debt.

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New Olympic legacy website: London-Rio: Olympic Cities

Mega Event Cities

London-Rio: Olympic Cities

“Cities across the globe are using mega events to catalyse urban development and social, economic and cultural change. Here we present insights and analysis of these events, examining their impact upon city-building and exploring their contribution to the design and shaping of place.

Our research is policy focused and practical. Our approach is focused upon the social impacts and legacies of mega events. We use interdisciplinary analysis to discover new ways of comparing and thinking about the mega event city.

We are interested in receiving comments on the site and suggestions for relevant material or links to be placed on it. The site will be dedicated primarily to housing academic work on the social legacies of mega events, particularly those referring to London 2012 or Rio 2016. We would also welcome links to our site being placed in sites addressing similar themes.”

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Delhi Commonwealth Games Scam

Suresh Kalmadi, the Chief organiser of the 2010 Commonwealth Games, will spend the next 14 days in Tihar Jail.  Kalmadi was arrested by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on 25th April for “for conspiracy to cause favour to a company in Switzerland while procuring timers and scoring equipment for the Games”.  A Swiss company was awarded a contract to manage timing, scoring and results during the September Games in India.

The CBI will file it’s first chargesheet for the Commonwealth Games which will name not only Kalmadi, but also Games office-bearers Lalit Bhanot (secretary general), VK Verma (director-general), Surjeet Lal (deputy director general-procurement) and ASV Prasad (joint director general-sports), besides Swiss Timing-Omega.  If found guilty, Kalmadi could face years in prison.

For more information on this story click here.

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Financial Times Reveals Welfare-to-Work Programme Chaos

OLYPHOTO - 270

The Welfare-to-Work Programme has been described as “set to fail” by Sir Robin Wales, Mayor of Newham – the host borough for the 2012 London Olympics. In a fortnight, the winners of contracts are due to be announced, putting the unemployed and people on disability benefits back to work. However, Sir Robin believes that there is “a serious risk that some of the best prime providers may walk away”. Out of 11 bidders for the East and South London contract, 3 will be appointed in order to provide competition. Sir Robin said that he is yet to be convinced that ‘three prime contractors each delivering across 17 boroughs will do anything other than lead to confusion amongst job seekers and contractors’.

The rules the work programme has in place could themselves prevent people from taking one of the 100,000 jobs that the Olympics are meant to create. This is because providers will be paid the majority of their fee once they have managed to provide individuals with sustained work for a period of up to 2 years. However, given the short-term nature of most of the Olympic jobs on offer, the possibility of people taking jobs, becoming unemployed again and having to re-start the work programme a year later may prove discouraging.

Sir Robin believes that the government needs to ‘ensure that working in an Olympic job does not disadvantage the indivdual’ to avoid losing out on ‘the single greatest opportunity in Newham’s history to get our residents into work’.

To see the full article click Olympic jobless drive heads for ‘Chaos’

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The Regeneration Game

DSC_0133

Khan Market , New Delhi

The signs of regeneration are all over Delhi. Billboards proclaim ‘DELHICIOUSLY YOURS’ throughout the city, and  it is. The pace of work completed between June and now are staggering – the air-conditioned metro, Delhi’s prize feature, works efficiently; lights decorate various hubs of tourist activity and promote a warm, festive atmosphere; and customs takes only ten minutes to get through, as opposed the the previous hour. These are the positive aspects of regeneration and they indicate how far India can go and how much could have been achieved minus the corruption scandals and the delays.

Walk a few metres away from all of this, however, and you are confronted again with real Delhi – unpaved streets, buildings fallen into disrepair and open sewers perfuming the air. There is no sign, however, of the customary wallahs – the newspapers are full of tales of people returning to collect suits from streetside tailors only to find they have been moved on; cigarette wallahs, barbers, fruit-sellers, as well as beggars and the homeless – all have mysteriously disappeared without trace or concern.

According to some Delhi residents affected by the migration, their maids and their families were simply told to ‘leave Delhi for twenty days’ – the duration of the Games and the days preceding and following. Those who did not comply willingly were forced; shacks burned up in inexplicable circumstances and not all dwellers were recompensed. It is an open secret in Delhi that many of the poor were herded to a large slum outside the city, but it has been made extremely difficult for activists and media workers to photograph or document it, and those living there who have tried to fight back have been effectively dissuaded.

Regeneration is a game, of course, even if its prizes do not glide by neatly on a conveyor belt, and so it follows that not everybody wins.

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The Delhi Eye – A Symbol of Innocence and Inexperience?

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With the Commonwealth Games slipping into their final days in Delhi, other construction efforts are rushing for completion in a similar manner. Located away from central Delhi, in Kalindi Kunj gardens on the banks of the Yamuna River, the 45m wheel aspires to evoke comparisons with its more famous London counterpart. However, like much of the city, it remains unfinished and unused, with it’s location unknown to most locals and with the RP20 entrance fee to the gardens likely to prevent it being enjoyed by all levels of society.

It does boast one feature that the London Eye doesn’t – a VIP pod equipped (as rumour has it) with a minibar and a television. In case the view from the top proves underwhelming.

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Are the Commonwealth Games Inevitable?

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Delhi Graffiti, 2010

India is due to host the 19th Commonwealth Games in 11 days. Instead of a continuation of the initial warm support lauded on the South-Asian country as it takes strides to rank itself amongst the political and economic world players, the tone has turned to one of reservation and, by the frankest commentators, criticism. Given the problems plaguing this autumn’s quadrennial sporting event, it is difficult to know which would be worse: the staging of a Games riddled with disgruntled athletes, dubious infrastructure and security concerns; or a cancellation altogether.

The fact that with less than two weeks to go participating teams are seriously considering not going and there is open talk of cancellation among various sporting authorities suggests that the Unthinkable is actually very thinkable. The unstoppable “inevitablility” of Mega-sporting events is a myth. A dangerous myth because in Delhi (as in Athens 2004) workers have been killed by the ruthless logic of its timetable.

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The Downside of Commonwealth ‘Jugad’ : Mega-Event Footbridges

Grafitti Athens 2004

Graffiti Athens 2004

Images of the collapsed footbridge neighbouring New Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru main stadium have made front-page news across the globe and shone unflattering light on India’s Commonwealth Games preparation. The Games, which are due to begin in under two weeks on the 3rd October, have been dogged by whispers of corruption, corner-cutting and a lack of leadership. Such whispers have recently descended into deafening shouts as concerns are voiced, by laymen and ministers alike, about the quality of construction efforts. Newly-erected buildings have been left in varying states of dilapidation due to annual monsoons, and the athletes’ village has been denounced as unfit for habitation.

It is possible that such a high-profile setback may become a symbol of the dangers of rushing regeneration into cities and societies unready for it, given that it has ultimately caused more destruction than good and more haste has resulted in less speed. Similarly, another footbridge closer to home, though still un-built, has also caused destruction. Manor Gardens in East London, a 100-year-old allotment, was wiped off the map for an Olympic footbridge, and though this footbridge may not fall apart, the loss of this historic and green site is perhaps a troubling indicator in itself of progress for the sake of thinly-defined progress.

If the concept, as well as the spirit of jugad is alive and well (the idea that things will get done, by hook or by crook), then organisers may be hoping that what is quickly turning into a Commonwealth debacle is only an exception that proves the rule.

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Pirate Urbanism: Delhi’s Commonwealth Regeneration

Cuius testiculus habes, habeas cardia et cerebellum. If you have people’s attention, you have also their hearts and minds.

Not so for the building constructed as the headquarters for the Commonwealth Games 2010 in New Delhi. Stark, sublime and constructed out of grey brick with seemingly arbitrary flashes of colour in idiot-purple, it is no wonder it has stirred up furious controversy.

To put it into World Cup terms, the teams are as such. On one side you have the architects, praising it’s modern feel and visionary style; on the other, grassroots organisations and a not insignificant slice of the public decrying the cost and confused over the desired architectural intention……….

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Evicted for Sport

:courtesy: Ravi Chaudhary/Governance Now.

This year, the commonwealth games are held in Delhi. Minister of Delhi 2010 Sheila Dikshit’s  concept of a “World Class” image has convinced local officials to  demolish any slums local to the commonwealth venues.

On the 7th of July 2010, during work hours, a government funded demolition team took bulldozers to the Yamuna Khada school (funded by donations) in order for it to be ruthlessly demolished. Those who attended and worked at the school were given three hours to vacate the property with no alternative. Police were present along with the construction teams and were seen destroying whatever could be demolished by hand in order to put fear into local residents. Many were removed with physical force.

After the destruction of the school, children as young as five years old were seen with teachers attempting to salvage items from the rubble of the school in order to save whatever they could for their community.  The children will have to relocate to the nearest alternative school three miles away in order to have an education. The school as part of the community was by no means a luxury but a necessity. With no immediate community to move to it is unknown when they are next able to continue their education and their lives.

Children from slums (including the Yamuna slums) have come together to produce a book of poems entitled “We Built This City” in order to save at least the memory of the community that they and their families have spent the last 25 years building. This emotional and reflective collection is the only weapon these children have against the bulldozers and police sent in by the government. With India hoping to host the 2016 Olympics it’s a wonder how far this abuse of the poor is going to go.

To find out more about what is happening concerning the destruction of the slum communities and to help support those who have suffered from the effects of the redevelopment of the Yamuna river, please visit Sarai and Governance now. If you would like to see how we have looked at this issue, please see our London / Delhi Project.

With similar effects seen in Beijing (Olympics 2008) and the UK (arguably with less government approved violence), it is questionable whether the development of these cities to create a “world class image” is necessary or progressive. The compaction of poor communities increases the class divide as well as reducing the opportunity for the poor to improve their standard of living.

Interestingly the official explanation for why the school needed to be demolished was “security”, the same reason given for demolishing the 100 year old Manor Gardens Allotments in London. These mega-events last only a few weeks- demolition is forever. There is only one difference between the events in London and Delhi. Eviction with a smile.

Remember- Its not losing that matters, its the taking part.

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