Yesterday I reported that LOCOG is charging the taxpayer £220,000 to enable City Hall to give 67 of the most deserving Londoners tickets to the Olympics.
Nothing better illustrates how these games are about money above all else.
In a few weeks time Londoners will be forced to change their routines, their routes to work and even how they do business in order to accommodate the commercial interests of the IOC, LOCOG and their sponsors.
While Londoners are force to deviate form their normal routes, games officials and their hangers-on will be whisked around in reserved lanes. Londoners who stray into them face wallet-crushing fines.
Draconian advertising rules will prevent London’s small businesses from deriving any benefit from the games.
Will the Ukrainian official who illegally offered to tout tickets be dealt with as harshly as the small business that displays the Olympic circles? We’re entitled to have our doubts.
While the coalition was happy to flirt with sweeping away employment protection laws, no-one had the backbone to stand up to the IOC and allow the capital’s businesses to benefit from what is meant to be our games.
If the Jubilee were subject to the same overly onerous “brand protection” rules as the Olympics it would be illegal to sell bunting and holding a street party where the Queen’s face was displayed would risk fines or imprisonment.
For the last 12 months London has held the upper hand, we could have changed any part of the host city contract safe in the knowledge that it was too late for the games to be moved elsewhere.
As Former London Assembly Member Baroness Doocey said in the House of Lords last week:
The IOC’s demands increase with each successive Games, yet, given the keen competition to host the Games, no one dares to challenge it. But how can “Zil lanes” for chauffeur-driven limousines, and traffic lights that automatically turn green as they approach, be justified when they result in gridlock for the rest of London? Sooner or later, some host city must have the courage to stand up to the IOC and say, “Enough is enough. We will happily treat you like honoured guests but we are not prepared to treat you like gods”.
The book Running Free ends with this quote:
Of course sponsors have to receive value for money, but sport has to remain sport, a concept rooted on the track and not the balance sheet. It must not become another consumer-entertainment package.
In all sports we have to protect the fundamentals of sportsmanship, self-determination of the individual and the pursuit of excellence free of commercial expediency, and as Voltaire said, ‘the price of freedom is eternal vigilance’.
The author of those words is the now Lord Coe, head of LOCOG. Perhaps when he next appears before the Assembly they could ask him to measure LOCOG’s management of the games against those ideals.