Circuses, but Less Bread 1532

The London Olympics are already achieving the number one aim of the politicians who brought them here, which is making our politicians feel very important indeed.

The media is quite frenetic in its efforts to make us all believe we should be terrifically proud of the fact we are hosting the Olympics, as though there were something unique in this achievement. If we can’t competently do something that Greece, Spain and China have done in recent years, that would be remarkable. Of course the Games will be on the whole well delivered, sufficient for the media and politicians to declare it an ecstatic success. Some of the sporting moments will be sublime, as ever.

But did it have to be in London? We won’t know the total cost of the Games for months, but it will cost the taxpayer at least £9 billion and I suspect a lot more. I also suspect the GDP figures will, in the event, show that the massive net fall in visitor numbers has hurt the already shrinking economy further.

But to take the most optimistic figure, holding the Olympics in London has cost every person in the country an average of £150 per head in extra taxes. That is £600 for a family of four. Actually it is in the end going to be well over £2,000, as of course the money has been borrowed on the never never, and taxpayers are going to be paying it off their whole lives, along with the sum ten times higher they are already paying direct into the pockets of the bankers through their taxes.

The very rich, of course, don’t pay much tax, so they are not worried.

But to take just the figure of £600 extra taxes for a family of four, the lowest possible amount, and not including the interest. Is having the Olympics here really worth paying out £600 for? If Tony Blair had approached the head of the family and said “We are going to have the Olympics in London, but it’s going to cost you £600, would the answer have been from most ordinary people: “Yes, great idea, this is that important to us”?

People are not disconcerted because they don’t see that they have to pay. There is no special Olympics tax, and they pay their taxes in a variety of ways, and individuals are not the sole source of taxation. But this is nonetheless real money taken from the people in pursuit of the hubris of politicians.

I love sport. I hate the corruption of the International Olympic Committee, Fifa and the rest; I hate the vicious corporatism and militarisation of our capital and absurd elitism of the transport lanes; the sport itself I love. But with the economy contracting, and the NHS being farmed out for profit, is it really worth £600 for a family – and many families are really struggling in a heartbreaking way – is it worth the money to have the Olympics here rather than in Paris?

Of course it isn’t. I think many of us will feel an extra pleasure watching the Opening ceremony because it is British. Patriotic pride will surge. It is not wrong to enjoy the spectacle tonight on TV. The corporate well connected and ruling classes will enjoy it in the stadium.

But after you have watched it on TV, ask yourself this question. How much more did you enjoy it than enjoy watching the Beijing ceremony, and was that margin of extra enjoyment something that everybody in the room would have paid out £150 for?

Because they just did.

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1,532 thoughts on “Circuses, but Less Bread

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  • Alice Kilroy

    You are much more patient than me… I am pissed off at it all..

    London Underground is not allowed to give out Oyster Card Holders with a MasterCard Logo on!!! The corporatisation of the games has gone too far and as usual the poor taxpayer pays…

  • Jon

    I wonder if any journalist or amateur sleuth has looked at (estimated) flows of money within the Olympic project? Not just the cost of putting it on, but who are the net gainers? I suspect, though I’ve no firm basis for it, that this is a cynical exercise of transferring more public wealth into private hands, either as tax breaks or as subsidised advertising campaigns.
    That said, it is reassuring that tax-dodging is a hot enough potato that big corps are even turning down schemes that are govt sanctioned. Have a look at this, and sign if you haven’t already:

  • Jon

    Oh yes, and of course in privatised security that won’t be delivered on time or to required quality. Mitt Romney was right about something after all, and I didn’t think I’d ever say that!

  • lwtc247

    Excellent article Craig, which just happen to echo my own thoughts on the matter 😉

  • DonnyDarko

    If the games had really been full of British flavour and colour then we wouldn’t be having McDonalds with Coke shoved down our throats whilst being forced to wear the apparel of someone else’s choice.You can attend the games, BUT you have to wear, eat and drink what we tell you to otherwise your expensive ticket is forfeit.
    It can’t be easy to say you are proud to be British either, when anyone that can run fast from any country qualifies for full British Citizenship.You don’t even have to speak the language.
    They talk about fair trade and even playing fields, when what they really mean are fixed games , closed shops and competition kept at a distance.Money destroys everything and these Olympics are proof of that.
    I would love to know exactly what these benevolent Sponsors contributed, how much tax they have avoided, and if there is any Net gain for the Exchequer.
    One thing’s for sure,Pierre de Coubertin will be squirming in his grave.

  • andy bickers

    Watching channel4 news last night, a person with common sense managed to slip onto the program and informed john snow that the Olympic flame is Hitler Germany all over again, and he does see pride in a damn torch.

    Jon snow quickly shoot him down saying that the Olympic flame has nothing todo with Hitler…
    Thank god the person with common sense was able to shoot him down and inform him of simple facts on live TV, that this TV news anchor was so uninformed is shocking.
    Wonder if we can get a lunch date with a few of these people and inform them how the world really works outside of there PR teleprompter propaganda.

  • John Goss

    The Olympics went to London because London is where the politicians do business. It is where the 1948 Olympics were held too. Once a city has hosted the Olympic Games that should be its last time for 1000 years. There are lots of cities would like to host the Olympic Games and they should be given a chance.

  • Tom Welsh

    And the 1908 Olympics too, John!

    I wholly agree with Craig, who has summed up my attitude to the whole thing perfectly.

  • Hugh Kerr

    bang on Craig I have to say its not enthusing Scotland for an alternative critical view go to Russia Today

  • jives

    “Imagine there’s no countries…”

    Bored to tears with this NWO reptilian miltary-corporate circle jerk.

    Can we have a competition where medals are awarded for the fastest and best building of hospitals and schools etc instead please?

  • Tom Welsh

    Event Direct Cost to UK Government

    Iraq War ) Over £20B combined, as of
    Afghanistan ) June 2010.
    Libya £1-1.75B
    Royal Wedding £22M plus about the same again for security
    The Jubilee About £3M. The £10.5m cost of the River Pageant was paid for
    by individual donations and corporate sponsorships,
    and a “substantial” surplus was given to charity.
    Olympic Games… Over £12B, maybe as high as £24B

    I have made no attempt to account for loss of productivity through Bank Holidays, or watching the Olympics. Holidays may cost the nation something, but it will be a sad day when we consider them unaffordable.

    You will notice that the Olympics are costing about as much as Iraq and Afghanistan combined up to 2010 – although the bill for Afghanistan continues to mount. Libya was about one-tenth as expensive.

    The Royal Wedding cost about one-thousandth as much as the Olympics or the wars, and the Jubilee much less still.

  • Tom Welsh

    A slightly different kind of accounting shows that the Iraq war costs the lives of about 1.5 million Iraqis, and the Afghan war those of tens of thousands (at least) of Afghans. British forces lost a handful of soldiers.

    The Olympics, the Royal Wedding, and the Jubilee do not seem to have resulted in any deaths as far as I know.

    Does that matter?

  • Passerby

    It is strange that sometimes the politicos and their fawning roadies start blabbing without any sense of irony.
    As in the case of CNN during the GW Bu$h elections running a banner: “the best government money can buy”. This morning Cameron goes on about putting “Blair”, or “BP” on the show!
    In other words a lying cheating warmonger , and or a veracious petro-giant with a murky, and bloody track record, are sort of the selling points of the ol impics, says it all, does it not?.
    The disconnect of the power matrix from reality is more and more apparent as the days go by. The fact that there is a need to promote ol impics (no trade mark violations) on the soaps, is telling of the enthusiasm of the host nation!!
    Further proof if needed is the distribution of the “free” tickets, that is an attempt in filling up the various venues to compensate for the lack of the demand for the tickets that were offered on sale.
    Finally, given that we are being told to wait for the greatest show on the opening, missing in the furore is the simple fact: anyone needing to watch cabaret dancers and variety show singers etc, need not have chosen to come to the ol impics, across the water in Paris they could have found more of the same at cheaper prices and less hassle, as well as a better food variety., so nil point there too!
    Hence the £600 quid basically has been yet another burden put on the ever more regulated working man to pay for the high life style of the masters of the games.

  • Mark Golding - Children of Iraq Association

    There will of course be the usual ‘foiled plot’ relating to the London Olympics. This contrivance I believe will again as in the case of the Bulgaria bombing be a lurid story of an attack by operatives associated to Hezbollah – just another poke to get the EU to add the Hezbollah organisation to its list of terrorist organisations.
    Meanwhile while we are distracted by the union of five continents, chemical weapons appear in Syria as another final reckless and atrocious attempt at winning a propaganda war.

  • Komodo

    Jives: Enough of the poikilothermicist epithets already. If you prick me do I not take a large lump out of you, leaving a cocktail of really nasty bacteria to finish you off?
    Craig: I had really hoped you would not give the Clusterfuck Olympics any more blog space. All the papers had six pages of utter bollocks to wade through before anything resembling news could be discerned. And then it was Syrian rebels. (Q. Will Hague be calling for NATO support for the renascent IRA? A. I don’t think so).
    The R4 early shift was giving it ‘it’s wonderful’ without doubt or qualification, with a break only to detail the introduction of yet another performance standard in the NHS. Then back to the travels of the bloody torch.
    My deranged neighbour with the Jubilee tat still adorning his house headed off early this morning en famille, hopefully to get mugged or lost forever in Stratford. I haven’t seen propaganda like this since the Diana woman became a statistic. (Q. What was the last thing to go through Diana’s mind? A. The dashboard.)
    Shame on you.
    And where’s Werritty?

  • Mike Mowbray

    Love reading your blog,But I believe it is worth hosting the games.Seeing how moved the bollywood actor was after carrying the torch was heartwarming, and I’d guess many viewers in India would share my feelings. Watching this from New Zealand as an expat of 40 years, I sense a lot of good will being generated,and London’s multi culturism Will impress an awful lot of people through out the World.

  • Passerby

    Mike Mowbray
    Yeah we have been getting ready to meet and greet our guests in the “multicultural” Britain, yet another great legacy of Anthony Linton Blair, and his wonderful inner circle: the likes of David Millipede:

  • Giles

    Ought to be track-and-field only, held in Greece and free to watch, with laurel wreathes for prizes and no sponsorship. Whole thing’s a corporate bun fight.

  • Chris2

    “The Olympics, the Royal Wedding, and the Jubilee do not seem to have resulted in any deaths as far as I know…”

    The same is said, foolishly, of Fukushima.
    The deaths will come in many ways: some will die of malnutrition and cold, because society has chosen to spend its scarce resources on the Olympics rather than social welfare. Others will die of neglect in prisons or police actions where corporate employees are instructed to put profit above duty, and cost cutting above the preservation of life.
    There will be increases in suicide rates as despair spreads. There will be “crime,” as desperate people refuse to watch their families starve, and this will lead to deaths.
    And then there will be the victims of jingoism as the state is reduced to cheap triumphs abroad because it is incapable of dealing with reality at home.
    But most of all there will be the victims of the people (and these include all three of the political parties) who have destroyed the NHS not because they believe in neo-liberalism but merely because they are cowards in the face of greed. They will kill millions as the years pass.
    And so will Fukushima.

  • Mary

    FYI from the PSC
    Israel Runs Olympic Rings Round The BBC
    The BBC always claims it doesn’t bow to pressure from Israel, but that claim came spectacularly unstuck last week.
    It all began with a letter from Israeli government spokesperson, Mark Regev, to the Director of the BBC’s Bureau in Israel, Paul Danahar. Regev asked why the BBC had failed to list Israel’s capital on its online Olympic profile for the country, but had named the capital of all other countries and ‘non-country’ (by which we presume he meant Palestine, which had East Jerusalem listed as its capital). The BBC made an immediate change to its webpage, adding Jerusalem to Israel’s country profile as its ‘seat of government’. Not ‘West Jerusalem’, but ‘Jerusalem’. Changes were also made to the Palestinian page. The actual capital of Israel – Tel Aviv – received no mention whatsoever.

    Then, this week, the Israeli Prime Minister’s office contacted the BBC asking that it change the photograph it uses on its online News profile page for Israel. The original photograph showed an Israeli soldier confronting a Palestinian. This has now been replaced with the Israeli government’s preferred picture of an arty Bauhaus building in Tel Aviv. The photograph on the News profile page for the Palestinian Territories continues to show Palestinian youths throwing stones.


    Please write to the BBC asking why it refuses to name Tel Aviv as Israel’s capital. And ask that, at the very least, it corrects ‘Jerusalem’ to ‘West Jerusalem’ as Israel’s ‘seat of government’. This inaccuracy is present on both the Olympic webpage and the News profile, which is a permanent page on the BBC website. Israel wants the media to recognise Jerusalem as its capital, and it’s essential the BBC gets its facts right. You may also want to ask why a foreign government holds this kind of influence over the BBC – is this the BBC’s idea of impartiality?


    You can write to the BBC via the website. Please ask for a reply. If you’re dissatisfied with the answer you receive, you are entitled to write again.

  • Mary

    The bloody bloodstained Union flag will be much in evidence tonight. Will the royals be able to resist the temptation to wear military uniform?
    The EU ‘stole’ Beethoven’s Ode to Joy as their anthem. Tonight the 9th is being performed at the Proms by the West Eastern Divan Orchestra under Daniel Barenboim. The performance is being trailed on the BBC as a celebration of the Olympic games!
    ‘An impressive team of soloists joins the National Youth Choir of Great Britain and the West–Eastern Divan Orchestra to project the finale’s inclusive vision of hope, reconciliation and hard-won triumph. What better to mark today’s opening of the London 2012 Olympics than Beethoven’s ultimate hymn to universal brotherhood?’
    I am totally sick of the build up, the procession of the torch (not from the ancient gamnes but a modern invention from the Berlin Olympics) and the gush coming out of the media and the presenters. They must have all had special brainwashing.

  • Uzbek in the UK

    Mr Murray
    Since Moscow Olympics, Olympics is NOTHING to do with sport. In the last 20 years Olympics was a corporate promotion exercise. Look at torch bearers. First Samsung bus passes, then Coca Cola bus, then Lloyds, and only then torch bearers appear with their 250 quid torch which ironically then they can purchase. I met few people who were “honoured” to run with torch and some of them did not have extra money to buy it.
    Opening ceremony today will be full of dictators, tax dodgers, war criminals and etc.
    Olympics turned into a circus where rich and powerful are entertained by so called sportsmen and women each of whom is turned into a promotional dummy with Olympics sponsor brands.
    At present economic and political climate Olympics serves good facade to hide current and future problems. It had already caused problems for many people, and it will cause problems for even more, for years to come.

  • giles

    Mary – you can always tune out and tend to your hornbeam hedge; I think the GBC is bad for your health.

    Passerby – alluding to the announcement.

  • Mary

    Wow! Jeremy *unt managed to ring a handbell this morning at 8.12am. There’s a clever boy. More of the tripe using more of the Arts Council funny money (£55million??)that has been sloshing around on the ‘Cultural Olympiad’ under the capable management of Ruth Mackenzie. A whiff of Common Purpose lingers!
    And how about the Nowhereisland that is being towed around the SW coast. That was a snip at £half a million.

  • Mary

    It is not just ZBC, Giles. It is ITV, Sky News, Channel 4 and nearly ALL the media. Thank you for your assustance.
    Iain Sinclair – someone after my own heart – last night on Channel 4 News. He was up against the redoubtable Mr Jowell who told us she is living in the Olympic Village. Why? Snow had to shut her garbage up. She is like a recorded message machine.

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