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The Olympic legacy

But with the greatest respect, West Ham aren’t my football club. So why am paying to give them a brand new football stadium? OK, £25 million may not even add up to the GDP of Cyprus in this crazy world. But that’s still a fair chunk of change. And what are we getting for it? Some people are arguing that this is an important part of securing the fabled “Olympic Legacy”. But is this really what the late Baron de Coubertin had in mind? Half a dozen long balls aimed at Andy Carroll, and some lusty renditions of ”Oh Christian Dailly, You are the love of my life, Oh Christian Dailly, I’ll let you s**g my wife”.

Dan Hodges.

Samizdata quote of the day has already been taken but I couldn’t not share this one.

There is more:

Or, if the crude economics are too unpalatable, look at the whole thing through a footballing prism. If I was Peter Hill-Wood I’d be spitting blood. A club like Arsenal risks its entire future on moving to a state-of-the-art new stadium, pays the price on the pitch, and then watches as one of its local rivals walks into England’s second stadium for the princely cost of £15 million, plus £2 million rent a year.

The state has played an indirect role in the footballing world – such as policing, although the cost of policing grounds is shared by the clubs – and football has, mostly, been out of the state’s hands. The only time that its regulatory influence really tightened was after the various disasters, such as Heysel and Hillsborough, in which large numbers of fans were killed and regulations were changed to make grounds all-seater.

One commentator on the Hodges posting says this, though: ….” it is worth pointing out that West Ham will be paying £2m per year rent on the 99 year lease (not sure if that is inflation linked) and that there is a considerable cost in maintaining an empty stadium”.

Well quite. West Ham is going to have to pay a fair amount to use this ground, so it is not getting the site for free, which at times is the impression gained by the original article. Even so, given that compulsory purchase laws were used originally to clear the Olympic site – and some businesses never recovered – it is worth pointing out that one beneficiary is a privately owned football club which already has a ground of its own. It amounts to a transfer of valuable land and resources to a group of businessmen.


14 comments to The Olympic legacy

  • PT

    Presumably the people moaning about the Olympic Legacy are the same as those who complained so vigorously about how much the Games cost. Those same people who were waving union flags once they realised that the Games were fantastic and subsequently the shut up.
    The terms have to be attractive because any football club moving will only be renting , losing a huge asset i.e their ground.
    I suspect that the style of football may change with an increase in revenue which might attract better footballers, but thanks for the exagerrated cliche-ridden description of the team.
    I’m sure Arsenal and their love of financial fair play will be disappointed as they thought that the new system (which prevents anyone breaking into their big club monopoly) was about to start paying off.

  • Presumably the people moaning about the Olympic Legacy are the same as those who complained so vigorously about how much the Games cost.

    That would be me…

    Those same people who were waving union flags

    That would not be me…

    once they realised that the Games were fantastic and…

    That would also not be me and I can say the only event I watched (streamed over the internet) was Women’s Beach Volley Ball and no, I was not watching for the sport value. I regard all spectator sports as fairly uninteresting and a spectator sport that is also mixed with nationalism (i.e any Olympic event) and paid for by confiscating people’s money at gun point is both uninteresting and rather toxic.

    …subsequently the shut up.

    That would also not be me. But as you obviously enjoyed it, can I send you a bill for bits I had to pay for? I will add a small discount for the prurient thrill I got from that one Woman’s Beach Volley Ball match, ok?

  • PT

    Hi Perry,
    It’s a shame that leering at scantily clad women isn’t subsidised by the state as you could have had a field day. I believe there are specialist websites for this sort of thing.
    There are very many things that Government spend my tax money on and it would be wonderful to select which one’s I would like my contribution to go towards.
    If you have a suggestion that will make more of a financial return please let the Olympic authorities know.

  • There are very many things that Government spend my tax money on

    And that is *exactly* the problem. I would rather like to see the state’s spending as a percentage of GDP back at the levels they were in, say, 1865.

    If you have a suggestion that will make more of a financial return please let the Olympic authorities know.

    I could not care less how they make a return just as long as it does not involve the state taking my money to pay for something as trivial as games.

    And actually my ability to leer at those women was indeed subsidised by the state, which is to say, I was already paying for it, so I thought I might as well watch it as I do rather enjoy watching scantily clad women leaping around.

  • mike

    They’re on 33 points with a game in hand – it’s somewhat unlikely but still entirely possible that they get relegated. And wouldn’t that be amusing?

  • Sigivald

    If 2 millions pounds a year was fair rent for the site, they could get it (definitionally!) without the State’s interference.

    That they’re depending on the State’s interference suggests that 2 million pounds a year is far below market rates, and thus Yet Another Subsidy.

  • PersonFromPorlock

    March 22, 2013 at 3:58 pm

    If you have a suggestion that will make more of a financial return please let the Olympic authorities know.

    Only the obvious one: don’t hold the Olympics in the first place.

  • Runcie Balspune

    the Games were fantastic

    Gold: Games somewhere else, paid for by someone else.
    Silver: Games here, paid for by grateful nation, fantastic.
    Bronze: Games here, paid for by grateful nation, crap.

    You can settle for silver but it doesn’t stop you preferring gold.

  • and football has, mostly, been out of the state’s hands

    Don’t hold your breath:

    The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights believes football is behind the times and must “catch up” with modern society on social issues.

    Navi Pillay, who grew up and worked as a lawyer in Apartheid South Africa, is also concerned women remain severely under-represented within the game.

  • Friday Night Smoke

    PT, I complained vigorously about how much the Olympics cost. I never waved a Union Flag about them. I never “realised that the games were fantastic” either; I was sickened by every moment of cloying coverage of them, every suggestion that what the youth of today need is to expensively train to run around on a lawn, every smug so-and-so who took around £1000 of my money along with that of every other reluctant taxpayer to spend on such an utterly pointless ephemeral circle-jerk.
    In my mind the “Olympic Legacy” is that we have a steel and concrete monument to mass stupidity.

  • Michael Jennings (London)

    The International Olympic Committee is a very rich organisation. When you investigate why this is, you discover that the television rights from the Olympics are very lucrative, and the vast bulk of the money is kept by the IOC. That’s right: the costs of the Olympic Games are born by the host city and the most lucrative revenues are kept by the IOC. No wonder the games make huge deficits. (Actually the costs are so great that the games would still make huge losses even if the host city kept the TV money, but still…)

    On top of that, Olympic games require vast amounts of construction of obscure facilities that are seldom built for anything other than an Olympic games, and organisational and logistic skills that are difficult because they involve very large crowds for multiple events in the same place at the same time because they are simply obscure – there is no other event quite like the Olympics. So, a city bids for and wins the Olympics, and after a year or so discovers that it has no idea how to run the event Helpfully, the IOC and its associated organisations (principally the sports federations and the “Global Partners” – ie the key sponsors – have done this before, and also they were the people who drew up the specifications in the first place. Plus, the constructions companies that built the facilities for last games will also build the facilities for the new one, and all the logistics and organisational people will allow themselves to be hired as “consultants” to run the event, for a hefty price. This means there is a huge amount of money then transferred from the host city to them. So not only does the “Olympic family” get the TV revenues, a lot of the “costs” turn out to be money being paid from the host city to them in various ways too.

    This also leads to the peculiar situation in which if you have seen the Olympics close up once, it becomes very familiar when you see it from close up a second time. It feels the same, it looks the same (to the extent that you can almost walk around one Olympic Park with your eyes closed if you have seen another), the same people seem to be hanging around all the time, and even the progression of the public mood (which goes from worried about the local inability to run this event at the start of the games to euphoria once it is clear that the games are running smoothly and local athletes are winning) are *exactly the same* every time. (There is one slight exception, which is that the locals do get to run the opening and closing ceremonies. They don’t ultimately get a lot of say in what goes on in between).

    It could be worse though: Russia has admitted that the budget for the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics (which, curiously, are being held in one of the few places in Russia where it doesn’t regularly snow) have reached $51 billion. From the IOCs point of view, holding the games in a corrupt authoritarian country is probably better. In this case the corrupt authoritarians and their hangers on can just join in the plundering of the public purse.

  • Michael Jennings (London)

    As an aside, if you are looking for an explanation as to why the next two soccer World Cup were awarded to Russia and Qatar instead of (say) England and Spain, considering it from the above logic provides pointers. The World Cup is not nearly as complicated an event as the Olympics. Basically you need four things: half a dozen modern stadiums with 50,000+ capacities, lots of hotel rooms near the stadiums, decent airports near the stadiums (with good roads and railways also helping) and expertise with the logistics – do you know how to handle crowds this big?

    Now, give the World Cup to England (or Spain). Stadiums? Yep (Old Trafford. Emirates, Wembley, Anfield etc). Airports? Yep. Hotels? Yep. Organisational skills? Hmm, that’s a tricky one. Do you think that the people Manchester United employ to run games at Old Trafford (who play an average of one home game a week for nine months every year, and every one of these games is sold out) have the skills to host three or four capacity crowds in the World Cup? Oooh, that’s a tough one. Basically, give the World Cup to England and you will be told to fuck off while England gets on with running it. There wil be no chances to feel self-important and line your pockets with other people’s money. So the World Cups instead get given to Russia and Qatar.

  • The British are somewhat ahead of the game compared to the US. Cities compete with each other to build government-financed stadiums for US football and baseball and basketball; the cities that don’t lose their teams to the ones that do. Last year’s NBA runner up Oklahoma City was snagged away from Seattle, who in turn is poised to snag away Sacramento’s team once they played the new stadium game.

    Your “compulsory purchase laws” sound like our eminent domain laws, where government can come in and buy property it wants; a touchy subject here is when it uses that power to turn the property over to some private developer.

  • It would barely occur to Australian sporting teams that they should build and/or own their own stadiums. This is something that has long been done by the government.