Olympic legacy – a potential disaster?

Richard Caborn, the sports minister at the time London won the Olympic bid, will speak today raising his concerns over the potential failure of the Olympics’ sporting legacy.

In his keynote speech at the annual meeting of the Sports and Recreation Trust Association in Birmingham, Caborn will elaborate on his comments, quoted in the Guardian today, that there was a “danger of failing completely,” adding that there needed to be a “major change of direction in the strategy on this if the disastrous decline experienced by many of the sports is to be reversed.”

The latest quarterly figures from Sport England show that the target to increase the number of people playing sport three or more time a week by one million by 2013 is a long way off the mark with a more modest increase of just under 110 thousand from 2007-08.

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British Olympic Association pretends Olympic budget is for regenerating East London

Olympic chiefs are having a luxurious beano in handily located Acapulco Mexico to hear progress reports on the preparations for London 2012. British Olympic Association chief executive Andy Hunt was jubilant that the Con-Lib coalition  government had excluded the games from the recent drastic spending cuts.

Hunt told the audience that the Olympic budget of 9.28 billion pounds included “7.3 billion pounds for the regeneration of east London.”

“I think a two billion pound investment for staging the games feels about right and appropriate for what’s going to be a fantastic games.”

Why Acapulco? Well you have to travel a long way to find an audience who will believe that the London Olympic budget is being spent on anything other than the London Olympics. I dare Hunt to come here and tell East Londoners that nearly four fifths of the Olympic budget is being spent on them and only £2bn is going on the games.

Fancy a dip? Or getting your figures massaged? Or are you happy just lying on the beach?

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London 2012 Olympics saved from cuts in Comprehensive Spending Review

Drapers Fields trashed for an Olympic depot

Grass roots sports lose- Olympics win

Schools and community sports will be the biggest losers under the Comprehensive Spending Review while the London Olympic project is likely to avoid major cuts to its budget or contingency. Losses of local sports amenities like Hackney Marshes and Drapers Fields as a result of the Olympics will now roll out across the nation as non-Olympic cuts hit.

The Department of Culture, Media and Sport is understood to have reached a settlement with the Treasury that will see about 30 per cent cut from its annual £1.6 billion budget. However London 2012 will  escape significant cuts to its £9.3 billion budget, and is expected to have its remaining contingency fund left largely untouched, partly out of necessity and partly expediency.

It is claimed that most of the major Olympic contracts have been awarded, so it is too late for major savings. The games are predicted to be completed with surplus contingency of £700 million. However the DCMS and the Olympic bodies have argued that is politically better to leave the contingency in place rather than take it back, and risk having to pay out in the event of an unforeseen crisis in the project.

The cuts to the DCMS budget will make it unlikely that the government can deliver on its promise of an abiding participation legacy from the London 2012 Olympics.
Sports minister Hugh Robertson will prioritise protecting funding for elite athletes in the run up to the London Games, and grass roots initiatives and projects run by UK Sport and Sport England’s will be cut.
Shadow Olympics Minister Tessa Jowell who told the nation the Olympics would only cost £3bn when it was nearer £10bn now claims she is concerned school sports initiatives will be hit by the cuts. So clearly nothing to do with her.

The details of the Olympic funding will not be announced by the Government on Wednesday. The cuts are likely to be made public on Thursday.

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Basildon is latest signing to Disgruntled First XI

Residents of Basildon are beginning a petition against yet more prospective public land sales to private developers in the wake of the agreed Sporting Village project. The public-private partnership between the council and construction company Morgan Sindall is part of the ‘Olympic Games’ Legacy’, and has already claimed a substantial piece of Gloucester Park, the town’s gymnastics club and Markham’s Chase Leisure Centre.

However, despite funding from sizeable organisations such as Sport England, there is an outstanding £19 million of the £38 million projected cost still to be paid, which means that other public areas have now been targeted by the council as expendable, notably including the Pound Lane Recreation Ground which is used by local clubs and youngsters.

Olympic preparations are already reducing local opportunities for sports activities

With the land in the hands of private developers, it will not only be used for the promised top-grade sporting facilities, as planning permission has already been sought for 73 homes on the former Markham Chase Leisure Centre site, and also 25 new houses on Northlands Park playing fields. This story is becoming a familiar sub-plot in the narrative of London 2012, with Hackney Marshes and Drapers Field in Waltham Forest also conspicuous casualties of the Olympic legacy.

Although the actions appear reactionary in frantically (and apparently reluctantly) trying to raise money for the benefit of the local area, the significant gap in funding suggests the opposite; that these areas of public use have been previously marked out for redevelopment at the expense of affordable – and often free – opportunities for local residents to play sport with the ultimate product being private gain. Many residents are also anxious that the planned facilities will be too expensive for them to use, and will only be exploited by elite sportsmen and women.

500 signatures have so far been garnered by those organising the petition, underlining the top-down approach to so-called public land.

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