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The 2012 Olympics and Housing

November 21st, 2004 Leave a comment Go to comments

The bids went in for the 2012 Olympics this week amid a blaze of publicity and patronisation. Londoners were told we “need to get behind this bid”. Why? The Olympics is all about ego, personal and collective. It is about nation verses nation and I am bigger/stronger/better than you. I do not need to get behind this bid. In fact I am vehemently opposed to everything the Olympics is and stands for. I hope London does not win this resource gobbling ego-fuelled circus.

Meanwhile there is an acute housing shortage and significant unemployment in the area where the facilities will be built. In Newham vulnerable persons are having to wait four or more years in temporary accommodation before they are provided a home they can call their own. Sometimes this temporary accommodation is a small flat or tiny bedsit, often it is a “hotel” room. This can be as small as 4 feet by 10 and contain a bed, shower, sink, fridge and wardrobe. Where the vulnerable person has to pass their day is either walking the streets or in such a claustrophobic hovel. Drug use is somewhat prevalent and this is understandable given the hopelessness of the lives concerned.

The Government thinks spending £2.5 bn of public money on the Olympics will be a good thing. I accept it might give us a little adrenaline boost and “sense of civic pride” – egotistic joy at how “great” we are – but will it make us feel better than building the 40,000 homes this money could build? Is it more civilized to put on a great show or to provide homes for those whose lives are on hold while they wait?

I am asking silly questions as usual, along the lines of ‘is it civilized to let 16,000 children die every day needlessly?”. The answer to all of the above questions is no. Let’s hope the Olympic Committee think London too big a terrorist target and award the games to Paris.

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