Short-termism set to destroy great chance for regeneration
No sport, no culture, no joy. Any Iraqi war is affordable; a festival of physical competition is not. I think the banks are very generous to take the blame for the government's lukewarm attitude towards the staging of the Olympics.
Whatever the true attitude towards this international event is, the fact remains that we know from earlier signals that the government is not at all keen. The reasons for this are reported in different ways as the cloud of dark soup is allowed to form over clarity. Tessa Jowell was giving the line that if the event was Londoncentric, the rest of the country would feel it unfair that they were funding something in the South East.
Others say that it would siphon money off the health service and infrastructure programmes. This is all a complete nonsense, as well as being a complete obfuscation of the truth.
The event (should we win the bid) is not staged until 2012, and it is unlikely that the existing party will be in power, and therefore it is beyond the attention span of any politician. This requirement for short-term benefit does not benefit programmes that architects, urbanists and engineers are involved with. The pace of change is slowed because delivery can never be fast enough to suit the parliamentary cycle. A good war in Iraq gives a result immediately and could even deliver a 'Falklands effect', but a decent railway, such as Crossrail, which can deliver long-term advantages, is delayed and delayed. Similarly, as the 2012 Olympics is not of major importance, it is allowed to be slowly strangled and forgotten.
How irresponsible it is of government to do this. We are a nation which enjoys sport and enjoys diversions; we surely do not want to be seen to measure everything by cost/ political benefit analysis. But that is what we do. We also stifle good projects with an overscientific form of accounting (which always seems to cost more in the end) that would appear as a delaying tactic. This is Treasury manipulation done as window dressing.
The Olympics are, I believe, a wonderful opportunity to regenerate some parts of the South East which so desperately need it. It is a misconception that all is roses in the South East region, and the spirit and money that would flow as a result of a major world event would act as a catalyst to help redefine London and in particular its eastern edge.
I noticed that Prescott is very enthusiastic in his support for the project to allow thousands of new homes to be built along the Thames corridor, thereby advancing Heseltine's initiative which is 20 years old.
Homes will be built in a suburban form that is so wasteful of our land resources. They will be of no architectural merit, and the people who live in them will find it difficult to feel connected (other than by car) because no one will push the button to continue to expand and improve our infrastructure.
Anyway, Heseltine's vision might usefully be reviewed by the findings of the Urban Task Force, which seem to be constantly ignored by government. These new suburbanites will be condemned to looking at the Olympics on TV; happening, no doubt, in some country considerably poorer than ours, when they could have caught a train and seen them live. The same train that allows them to visit friends and go to work easily. I am disgusted by the lack of imagination, balls, and sense of responsibility to recognise that enjoyment.
WA, from my table at the Stamford Hotel, Singapore