Thursday, March 01, 2007

Smells Like Mean Spirit

Have I mentioned that I live right next to the site of the proposed London Olympics? That’s a rhetorical question by the way, much like this one,

Is it possible to establish an upper limit to the cost of staging this international egg and spoon convention?

I have two words – Wembley and Stadium. But it’s much, much worse than that. Imagine a thousand Wembley Stadiums being constructed out of ice in the middle of summer on time and on budget and you may have an inkling of the fiasco that is unfolding in impoverished east London. The evening papers are all today reporting that the ‘estimate’ of the cost of staging this sack race fest has nearly quadrupled from the original ball park of £2.375 billion, which incidentally the Olympic Committee accepted as a bone fide competitive tender amount, to a staggering £10 billion. And there’s still five years to go. And barely a sod has been turned on the site.

For the past year and a half the Government has been reassuring us that most of the runaway train of a budget would be dedicated to ‘regeneration’ and even more particularly, to ‘sustainable development’. Call me picky but it is kind of difficult to establish whether or not a development is going to be sustainable when you have no idea what it will entail. Yes. That’s right. There is no detail available to local residents on what this ‘regeneration’ is going to look like.

On the other hand, we certainly do know what it is not going to bring. Improved transport for one. There will not be a tube connection to the site. If ever there was a missed opportunity this is it. Hackney is a vast corner of central London that is notable for its lack of inclusion on the underground rail system. A timely extension of the existing East London Line will carry the tube into Dalston in the south-east corner of the borough but no further. I have visions of hundreds of thousands of people waiting to board the 236 bus in Ridley Road market to travel the last couple of miles to our state of the art sports pavilions along with locals bringing home their bags of plantains, yams and breadfruit. My advice to Olympic visitors is to buy closing ceremony tickets and set off on day one. With luck you’ll get there in time to hear Oasis’s especially commissioned version of The Banana Boat Song.

It seems the latest uncertainties have even rattled insiders. The Metro reports,

British Olympic legend Sir Steve Redgrave today voiced his worries and urged the Government to end speculation about the increasing costs.

The five-times Olympic champion rower said: "I have found it frustrating and I will be very satisfied when we will get to a point where they say 'this is the budget, this is the money we have got to spend'.

"If you were building a house or an extension you would have a budget to spend. I think the British public would prefer that."

I’m sure they would Sir Steve. I propose that we give the Olympics to Paris because they really should have had it in the first place and spend £10 billion giving everyone in Britain an extension.

Also in Olympic news this week is the latest ‘initiative’ to identify sports men and women for Team Britain! Whilst other countries have been tediously funding sporting academies and dull collegiate systems for decades to support their athletes, we in Britain have embraced the true entrepreneurial challenge of uncovering an elite band of sports men and women worthy of representing their country, by complete accident. This is the British democratic way. It is incongruous with our national character to look like we care a jot about trivial old sporting contests (unless of course we happen to win, in which case whatever we win at has always been very dear to us).

Our fresh and new approach is fiendishly simple. Government researchers have been ensconced for months reviewing statistics relating to sporting prowess and have come up with a devastating formula – successful athletes are, on the whole, quite tall. So, sporting scouts are, as I write, scouring the country in search of young men of at least 6’ 3” and young women of 5’11” or more to make up our Olympic team. It doesn’t matter apparently if they have never done any sport before. This method, at least, is endorsed by Sir Steve Redgrave who revealed that he was channelled into rowing because a master at his school noticed that he had big hands and feet. He could just as easily have ended up as a porn star if the master had possessed different tastes. I guess we’ll never know. Our gold medal winning runner Dame Kelly Holmes at 5’ 3” would certainly not make the cut so it’s just as well she’s already retired.

Although never likely to compete in any Olympics as I am only 5’ 6” and now quite old, I am currently slugging it out in Leesa’s Battle of the Blogs which is tiring enough I can tell you. I don’t really understand the rules very well but I do know that I was nominated by lovely Periodic Englishman and that I have received a ‘bye’ in Round 1 of the competition. Initially I thought this meant I had been eliminated, (I was thrown by the ‘bye’ as it were), but it turns out to mean just the opposite. I have a free ride to Round 2. Hurrah! If you want to vote for me, as I understand it, voting in Round 2 commences on Sunday.

I will be continually singing the Oasis song Don’t Look Back in Anger in anticipation of your support and, alternatively, attempting to grow five inches with a view to making it into the national beach volleyball team. It’s the only chance I’ll ever get to walk to work…

Cartoon from


swimmer6foot4 said...

So glad to see I was not alone in misunderstanding the "bye" line. I felt quite upset to think you'd been kicked out. (Not that I'm overjoyed to see blogging join the world of competition; it's too organic for that, surely?) Can't we just crown you now and get it over and done with?

I wonder, have you have seen the following item about the astronomical costs of the Games?
cheap at twice the price!

Scott from Oregon said...

Lovely reading. Thank You.

Matt said...

Ms Pants, you are a treasure: a shining light to curmudgeons everywhere! We salute you.

You raise a very good point - when is someone going to put their foot down and say "no more"? Unless someone does something about this, the cost of the Games will continue rising infinitely.

Where are you Gordon Brown? I think it's about time for you to start talking about your girlfriend, Prudence.

Ms Melancholy said...

I am still smiling at the thought of Steve Redgrave's master having different tastes. Very funny.

Buffy said...

Sounds like fun. And a big fat headache.

Reading the Signs said...

I hope the novel and all else is going well - but damn, I miss your "voice."

Oh well, carry on, carry on. But just a snapshot perhaps ?

Leesa said...

Just wanted to stop by to tell you that Battle of the Blogs: Round 2 has started, and your blog is one of the ones still in the competition.

Leesa (

Political Umpire said...

As you say, precedent has it that this project will run way over budget. As far as I know no Olympic games or Commonwealth games has ever made money.

Given that we know the gvt will not be able to hike up taxes endlessly to fund this lark, the money will have to come from the budget originally intended for someone else. Therefore, the question is who will miss out?

Boris said...

What?! £10,000,000,000 to regenerate one small corner of London. Where the hell are they getting their quotes from? For that money, I would like to see free child care for all the kids that need it, no hospital waiting lists, NHS dentistry, decent schools and parks and a living pension for all our OAP's. It is an absolute scandal that so much money is being poured into this farce. It reminds me of people who overspend on their kids at christmas to IMPRESS the NEIGHBORS - ie France in this case.

As far as the selection of athletes is concerned, they should be looking for people with large bottoms as we only seem to be any good at "sports" we can sit down to do - such as yachting, rowing and cycling.

Please keep us informed of budget increaes and let's just see how far "they" will push it?


Ms Melancholy said...

Hey, Ms Pants - you ok?

Boris said...

That is an outrageous amount of money to spend on a glorified sports hall and the "regeneration" of a small corner of London. Yes very nice for those who happen to live there, but what about the rest of us who also pay taxes?

For £10,000,000,000 I think we as a people could get better value for our money. For example how about dentists on the NHS?

If the olympics is so important, then why not let France host them and pay for everyone in the Uk to have a short break to France to watch some of it - that would still be less that £10,000,000,000.

Nice blog Pants


Anonymous said...

I use the dreaded North London line daily from Stratford, you might be interested to know that Transport for London are taking charge of the line from November this year. Does that mean it will get better or worse? I'd like to think better, cos lets face it, it can't get any worse can it?

Oh and tell me? Are they filling up every car park sized space with 'apartments' for affordable housing in Homerton too?