Olympics Hurrah!

Beijing. T he Last Olympics?
written june 12 2009

Yes Chris Hoy is a great chap and three cheers for our swimmers, cyclists, yachtsmen and women. I watched the whole thing with great pleasure, but as recession looms and climate change deepens can we honestly justify spending at least £10 billion – and there are fears it could be £12-16 billion on this London circus, and will we want to in the face of what we may well be confronting by 2012.

And should we? Sport is valuable because it provides us with fun and recreation. Sport also provides physical exercise which is now recognised to be every bit as vital for health as good diet. As such access to sport and fitness should be encouraged and made available for everyone. This means pools, gyms, sports-centres, fields, and much greater expenditure on sport in schools so all these things can be easily and affordably accessible for everyone, particularly the less well off, the young, the old, the depressed, the obese and the disabled. I know. I am a 67 yr old who has had a life-saving triple bypass on the NHS and attend my local sports centre four times a week. It is excellent, vital for my health and well being and I love using it. Fact. It is not available for many and it is too expensive for those on low incomes and dependent on the State Pension or even Invalidity Benefit.

Professional sport however is simply entertainment and as such should rely entirely on market forces and the private sector for funding. The Olympics now mix the two up.

The Olympics is more about national prestige than stimulating participation in healthy activity. It is more about providing employment for a tiny minority of increasingly over-trained individuals who see their future as marketing icons than in broadening and enabling active participation. It is not much about friendship, fun, international understanding or the promotion of long term health and fitness. It provides entertainment, yes, but at what a cost. In a time of depression, who suffers? Expenditure on the Arts and on fitness centres suffers. Supporting free access to children, pensioners and others in need suffers.

More to the point in four years time we now know the threat of flooding to London will have increased enormously as the ice melts and the seas warm. By 2012 the Thames Barrier will not be enough. If London is to survive flood defences costing far more than £10 billion will be needed.

Let us cancel and withdraw from the Olympics now on the grounds that the health and safety of the people of London demands it. Instead we should encourage the Russians to take it on while we do some serious planning and preparation for the future of catastrophic weather and flooding that looks increasingly likely.

John Baxter