Mark Littlewood

Never again should so much be wasted by so few

Never again should so much be wasted by so few
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If you tire quickly of the tediously lengthy build up to Christmas, which starts about now, then heaven help you in dealing with two years of hyperbole about the 2012 Olympics. Even the most enthusiastic synchronised swimming fan will find it hard to imagine that the actual event will live up to the billing. And as a keen follower of sport (well, proper sport like football or motor racing), I hope that the London Olympics absolutely bomb.

 

I want half empty stadia, feeble athletic performances (particularly from British competitors) and embarrassingly low television viewing figures. Because - after this fiasco has finally ended - I don’t want there to be anyone who can seriously claim that it was a success; that it was worth it; or – most cringe-making of all – that I should feel proud to be a Londoner on the back of it.

 

I do, however, want there to be a lasting Olympic legacy. And I want this legacy to be that no politician will ever again dare to sanction a multi-billion pound splurge of taxpayers’ money on hosting a fortnight of sporting activity in any British town or city.

 

Absolutely nothing can happen in London in July 2012 – or thereafter – to conceivably justify the grotesque £9bn price tag that this is due to cost. If West Ham United get a decent new stadium and transport infrastructure improves in some parts of the city, that’s precious little comfort.

 

The argument that the Olympics are a “great opportunity” to rejuvenate the East End is pitiful. Why do you need Bulgarian weightlifters and Korean kick boxers to justify rejuvenating something? If you want to rejuvenate parts of London, just go and rejuvenate them. Even allowing for the grotesque inefficiencies of the public sector, you should be able to build 100,000 units of affordable housing for the cost of hosting the Olympics. They’d be very affordable indeed, because you could give them away and still spend less than is being wasted on the 2012 games.

 

If you're after a sporting legacy, why not focus on the national sport of football? You could hand out - for free - one million Football League season tickets to help prop up the grassroots of the game. And you could afford to do this for the next twenty years before you match the bill we’re picking up for a fortnight of athletics.

 

Leading politicians from all three main parties supported the Olympic bid from the outset. The obscenity of their decision will become apparent as higher taxes and major austerity cuts will probably reach their height just as the Olympic torch arrives in London. That’s no basis for national pride. On the contrary, it’s a national disgrace.

Mark Littlewood is the Director of the Institute of Economic Affairs