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The Guardian on upcoming mega-events

2008 November 3
by Skip Sauer

These are rants, but interesting ones. The first swing is at the 2010 Fifa World Cup in South Africa:

In my home city, Cape Town, for instance, we are putting up an enormous and ruinously expensive 68,000 seat German-designed super venue. The stadium already dwarfs the commonage and low-rise flatland of its well-to-do Green Point neighbourhood, and it’s not even half-finished. At a current estimate of 4.5bn rand (£250m), it’s already 50% over budget, but it’s early days.

Not only is the stadium far too big for a city where even premier league matches struggle to attract 15,000 spectators, but most of those spectators live far away in the dusty townships of the Cape Flats.

…All in all, South Africans will be forking out for five brand new super-stadia as well as elaborate extensions and upgrades to five existing ones.

We’re also spending money we don’t have on bigger airports, new airports, more roads and a very expensive high-speed train which may or may not be ready in time to whisk visiting fans from Johannesburg’s revamped or Tambo Airport to the swanky hotel and shopping district of Sandton.

And because our national electricity provider has unexpectedly run out of capacity, we are importing brand new diesel-fired back-up generators, and extra diesel, just to make sure the floodlights stay on.

Next up, Simon Jenkins on the 2012 Olympics in London:

First cut the crap. Stop talking about legacy, which never happens. Every Olympian knows that legacy is grass growing over defunct velodromes, cracked concourses and ghost villages. Not a penny of the £9bn is going on sport – that is extra – but on buildings, fees and salaries. The head of UK Sport, John Steele, has already declared that his own demand for money “is investment directed at delivering medal-winning performances”. Whatever happened to just playing the game?

[Gordon] Brown was vociferous in attacking City bonuses. What about his Olympics gravy train? At the last count there were 200 officials in the Olympic Development Authority. The lowest-paid member of its management team is on £243,000, and the highest, David Higgins, £624,000.

They are apparently not up to the job and need a consultancy firm, CLM, with a further 300 staff, to help manage the project, at an astonishing fee of £400m over four years. This firm had the effrontery last year to charge (the taxpayer) a further £10m in staff bonuses on a project that has tripled in expense.

A quite separate body is the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games, whose head is paid £557,000 and whose members get a reported £1,000 just for attending a meeting. How can Brown insult City bankers when allowing this sort of greed to continue?

These can’t possibly be annual salaries, can they Nick? Regardless, Jenkins has more:

Simply managing the project is now budgeted to cost £647m, up from £16m in 2005 – more than will be spent on supporting any Olympic athletes.

As totem of this racket, 3,000 limousines are being obtained to ferry Olympics officials to Stratford up a special red-light free “Zil lane” on the Mile End Road. The lane will be banned even to athletes’ cars. Yet these same officials demanded that London ratepayers build them a unique train service, the Javelin, from St Pancras, which they are now too grand to use. It is beyond satire.

The 2012 project has ballooned into a giant bureaucracy with a small sporting festival attached, and is beyond ministerial control. Tessa Jowell [the Olympics Minister(!)] can only chant her Olympic motto, that in this business she “spends to save”.

The world’s greatest white elephant, the “sustainable” £500m athletics stadium, should be stopped now. It will stand empty after the games since nobody wants it. As Building Design magazine said a year ago, “There is nothing sustainable about building an 80,000-seat stadium for less than two months’ use” at the highest cost per seat in the world.

Funny how these fat cats can crawl on the “sustainable” train. Do read the whole thing.

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