Edinburgh Festival vs Olympics 52


19,000 athletes took part in the Olympics and Paralympics. 25,000 artists, performers and speakers participate – every August, in the Edinburgh Festivals. Total audience numbers for all Olympic venues across the UK were 8 million. Total audience numbers for the Edinburgh Festivals, every August, are 4.2 million. Crammed into an area not substantially bigger the the Olympic Park.

Total gross taxpayer subsidy for the Olympics was north of £12 billion. £12,000,000,000. Total gross taxpayer subsidy for the Edinburgh Festivals is south of £3 million. £3,000,000.

The Edinburgh Festivals every year bring a net inflow of 105,000 tourists to the UK who would not otherwise have come. By contrast the Olympics brought a net decrease in the number of tourists visiting the UK, not yet calculated exactly but likely to be around 200,000.

Yet the crazed doom-mongers of the security industry have not yet got hold of the Edinburgh Festival. There are no anti-aircraft missiles on blocks of flats in West Pilton, no frigates lurking in the Firth of Forth, no commandoes in motorised dinghies patrolling the Water of Leith. You can enter the King’s Theatre without a soldier rummaging through the pantie liners in your handbag. You don’t get a full body scan at the Usher Hall. Half the road lanes are not closed off for the use of very, very important bureaucrats. Small shopkeepers are not prosecuted for displaying Festival symbols.

And the fireworks are better. A lot better.

{Edinburgh’s summer festivals include the Edinburgh International Festival, the Fringe, the Film, Book, Television and Science Festivals. I missed some).


52 thoughts on “Edinburgh Festival vs Olympics

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  • mike cobley

    Excellent point, Craig. But you miss the point about the Olympics being a means (yet another means) for funnelling big gobs of public cash into the private sector, especially to these big imperial corporations who need to feel both very important and very rich. Don’t see much opportunity for tasty revenue streams at the Edinburgh festival, so with less dosh floating around there’s less need for missile launchers poking out of the wheeliebins etc etc.

  • Robin MacCormick

    Dear Craig,

    One of the “festival” events in Edinburgh is the military tattoo on the Castle esplanade for three weeks or more attracting many thousands of tourists every year. I have no doubt that the cost to the UK armed forces of organising and performing this show will be categorised as part of the benefit which Scotland receives from the defence budget.

  • N_

    There is a tasty revenue stream in Edinburgh. It flows mainly to the hotels and the venue owners, the biggest of which may well be Edinburgh University. It’s just that it comes from real people paying to watch usually well-staged events and to stay in the city when they do so.

    The Olympics were a flop, 12 times bigger than the Millennium Dome! At one point, organisers were frantically herding people in to sit on the seats for free, including “youngsters who have contributed to the community”, i.e. anyone in any local sports team or community group for miles around who was able to give up a day at short notice, and perhaps funniest of all, including off-duty soldiers who were in the area to guard it!

    It’s an index of what the Olympics are for, namely a vehicle for advertising big western brands, that Britain didn’t become the laughing-stock in the world’s media for what was nothing other than a corrupt mega-scam and flop.

    Another thought to ponder: why is there a Congestion Zone in London? My feeling has long been that it’s because the US keep an important embassy in Mayfair, along with their CIA station nearby.

  • Cryptonym

    It would be a whole lot better if people could get to Edinburgh. The Waverley Line, which ran from Carlisle to Edinburgh and was closed in the Beeching/Marples sabotage of rail, to favour car makers and road building corporations is a sorely missed part of the rail infrastructure. Though it had many branch lines and industrial offshots serving quarries, mines and forestry, it was no inessential branch line itself but a major linkage connecting East Coast and West Coast main lines and allowed great diversity of routing. The road network south of Edinburgh is no great shakes either, the meandering two-way A7, never became the projected M7, on which we all would bowl along in our Hillman Imps towards a petrol-fuelled utopia. Instead we have deserts like the Borders which the 20th century seems to have by-passed entirely, not to produce some rural idyll, but poverty, isolation, enduring serfdom and political irresponsibility, returning Tories and Liberals till recently out of sycophancy and perversity. If even a tiny part of the infrastructure spending pissed away on prestige projects for that London were instead spent anywhere north of Watford, and the rest of England, Scotland and the rest not subservient to that disproportionately subsidised capital city’s ravenous cravings for the entire public purse, things would be jolly different I can tell you …

    I’m not trying to derail this thread towards more discussion of choo-choos.

    The Festival is all rather a bit elitist, not in terms of much of the content being above comprehension and enjoyment by the proles, but travel, accomodation, tickets, time from job or family commitments, food and drink etc. is beyond the economic means of the 99%.

  • friendly phil

    The Olympics like the Millenium Dumb are twat politicians’ attempts to erect pyramids in their own honour. Using the sweat of the workers via taxes just as the pharoahs used slave labour, and indeed even going almost as far and using ‘volunteers’ except they couldn’t get enough and had to take the army off Afghan-killing duty.

  • N_

    @Cryptonym – And not just north of Watford! Have you been to Margate or Dover? 🙂 There is a lot of poverty and degradation in London too, and probably as much in Edinburgh, in terms of numbers of people, as in the Borders…

  • Mary

    All seemed fine in Edinburgh except this which marred it.

    Boycott Batsheva protest in Edinburgh – BIN report
    http://www.scottishpsc.org.uk/index.php/solidarity/boycott/cultural/theatre/batsheva/1493-boycott-batsheva-protest-in-edinburgh-bin-report

    See the link below about the Festival chief Jonathan Mills warning protesters to ‘stay away from Israeli dancers’. The Israeli dance company is financed by the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Mills refused to accept that the inclusion of the dance company in the Festival programme was an Israeli government propaganda exercise. The Israeli Culture Minister even showed up and Burt of the FCO supported her. There has been no acknowledgement of the Israeli disruption of Palestinian cultural events in Israel.

    {http://www.scottishpsc.org.uk/index.php/solidarity/boycott/cultural/theatre/batsheva/1485-festival-chief-jonathan-mills-warns-protesters-stay-away-from-israeli-dancers}

  • Suhayl Saadi

    Too right, Craig, spot on.

    And I agree also with Cryptonym wrt the rail/road links. The road north from Northumberland is shockingly archaic. This touches on another recent post, I know, but it is thematically-linked – there should indeed by high-speed rail links through Edinburgh, right up to Aberdeen. Shoooooom!!

    Well, I missed ‘Edinburgh’ this year, was just too busy. But ‘I’ was there all along, up on the wall, in the newly-refurbished Scottish National Portrait Gallery! Shameless self-promotion – yes! If anyone’s in Edinburgh in the next month of so, it – both gallery as a whole and the exhibition – are well worth a visit. Film-maker, Sana Bilgrami has made a wonderfully evocative and moving documentary about her grandfather (who, she discovered, came to Britain 100 years ago and married a Scottish woman) which one can watch every 15 mins there.

    http://www.nationalgalleries.org/collection/artists-a-z/J/26622/artist_name/Verena%20Jaekel/record_id/22468

  • Nextus

    I popped down to Stratford earlier this week to see what the all the fuss was about. When I got off the tube, we were herded en masse down walkways and along predefined paths. Finally there was a choice to go left into Westfield Shopping Centre or right to the Olympic Park. Ordinary plebs with no tickets (like me) had to go left into the shopping centre (it’s huge). I just wanted to get out into the streets of Stratfrod. At the other end, I found my option similarly restricted. Everywhere was fenced off.

    A man next to me started walking up the stairs with his family, carrying his young daughter on his shoulders. A volunteer rushed over, telling him “I’m sorry, I’ve just been told you’re not allowed to carry children up the stairs.” He protested, but she gestured with her foam appendages and said “I’ve got big pink hands. You have to do what we tell you”. Exasperated, the man said “I suppose I’m not allowed to lift her up at home either now? Sheesh!!” He complied reluctantly, but was clearly not amused.

    I eventually found a way out and walked up a bridge to take pictures. But the end of the bridge was blocked off to pedestrians. I felt I’d had enough of being penned in by this stage, and decided to head back to central London. On my way back to the station, I was stopped and redirected couple of times (once by uniformed soldiers!) – “Exit only! Go that way!”. I finally got back onto the tube, and resolved not to return anywhere near Stratford until freedom to explore and associate was restored.

    As it happens, about a month ago, I visited the Demilitarized Zone in South Korea (the most heavily fortified border in the world), and although some soldiers got tetchy if anyone produced a camera, the atmosphere was much more friendly and relaxed.

    It’s a wonder why this authoritarian crackdown in Stratford hasn’t sparked further riots.

  • N_

    The Zil lanes in London will doubtless come in useful at the time of the next financial ‘events’, enabling the filthy rich to get to Heathrow (or London City Airport) fast.

  • Mary

    No irony, again. Another soldier has been blown to bits today in Afghanistan making the total killed there 427 since 2001.

    Yet the Paralympic closing ceremony started off with a legless ex soldier injured in Afghanistan climbing a pole with the commentary from Gurumurthy giving a nod to the militarisation of C21 Great Britain and a salute to Help The Heroes. This was followed by an ex member of the military injured in Iraq intoning some dirgelike words. Sick.

    P Edward arrived in a strange vehicle which Gurumurthy told us it was cannibalized from a ‘gangster car’ (how appropriate for the royal passenger) and from a damaged military vehicle from Afghanistan!

    Thank goodness it’s all nearly over. Just the bills to be paid.

    I hope that G4S’s Buckles does not escape from his undertaking to come back to the HoC committee with his report. I trust that G4S will not be paid for their failure to meet their contract.

  • Courtenay Barnett

    @ Craig,

    Insightful observations Craig.

    Myself, very minor athlethe over 200m and the sprints, have a love affair with the Olympics. Put that aside, your stats do make sense as regards the rationale for all the “militarism” in response to the potential terroism.

    The answer comes that an external enemy is needed to keep the militarism going.

  • Cryptonym

    Fireworks are bad, they don’t impress me at all, noisy smoky smelly things, catching your throat, searing the eye, reverberating in your eardrums plus lots of nasty materials, metals, chemicals spewing out, a lingering acrid pall for several days locally, for eternity in the closed biosphere we inhabit -they’re more of an assault than a spectacle.

  • Barbara

    The Edinburgh Festival is fantastic, I agree, and I wish we could get something similar off the ground in Norwich! BUT otherwise imo you are a miserable lot once again about the impact of the fantastic Para/Olympic Games.
    The handicapped athletes were fantastic, and there is nothing like this in the Edinburgh Festival, it is a totally different event.
    The Paralympic athletes were celebrated in the opening ceremony and then in the Paralympic Games, where their dedication and dignity was a joy to watch. How could you fail to be inspired by the human spirit and its achievements?
    These Games are lifechanging to handicapped people, and to those who observe such excellence with an open heart.

  • technicolour

    O how nice to be on this thread. Suhayl, that’s a very beautiful picture, thank you. Nextus, that’s so funny – my own experience at Stratford was being pushed through the same route and stopping on those same steps, to gaze in wonder at the scene, and particularly the twiddly new montage they’d stuck on the old shopping centre, to find a security guard muscling up behind me and saying:
    ‘You can’t stop there”
    To which (and to my everlasting pleasure) I replied
    “In fact, I think you’ll find that empirically I can. Since I have”

    Proper esprit d’escalier or what? After that he got quite friendly, and we stood there talking for quite a while. Go figure, as they say.

  • bert

    The Paralympic Games and the Olympic Games aren’t life-changing for any disabled people. They benefit part of the elite among disabled people, of course. As they do so, they obscure what life is like for most disabled people, and they promote the idea that disabled people feeling good about themselves can be based on this obscene cult of strength and physical competition.

    The reality for hundreds of thousands, maybe millions, of disabled people in the UK is to be under constant threat of removal of welfare benefits, policed by cruel bureaucrats who assume they’re lying and try to catch them out, and by money-grabbing contemptuous medics. All while the local Tesco manager licks his lips.

    It’s a shame Ian Dury isn’t alive. He would have laid into this disgusting spectacle. Maybe he would have done it somewhere else than on the BBC, which ‘banned’ his song ‘Spasticus Autisticus’ for describing what it’s really like to be disabled. The Olympics and Paralympics go so well with the clenched fist of big consumer brands, TV-watching passivity, nationalism, militarism, and war.

    It’s not surprising that the theme of the supposed permanence of war got an airing.

    You say us critics are a “miserable” lot, Barbara, but you call the Paralympics ‘fantastic’ three times. How much have you thought about this?

  • Barbara

    Funnily enough I was missing Ian Drury today, I don’t think he would be as cynical as you about the games. He had a sense of humour at least.
    In the last few days some hard-training and dedicated athletes had their public triumphs, despite their handicaps. Were you not moved by that?
    You ask me to think more about it, but my response is more emotional. Why not celebrate the achievements of these fantastic athletes?

  • technicolour

    In fact Bert, I think Barbara and most people are capable of holding more than one thought in their head at the same time. This event saw the biggest protests against Atos and government policy yet, and although I’m not sure that anything will change this government’s disgusting policy towards disabled people, it has surely raised awareness that ‘they’ (because they are being targeted as another minority group) are real people who are…

    In fact, I can’t go on. You are quite right. In the current climate it t was a revolting exercise in showmanship over reality. It was like holding the ‘poor people’s games’ or the ‘OAPlympics’, where the winner is the one who doesn’t die of hypothermia first. I do think it has marginally raised awareness about Down’s syndrome. And probably inspired a few thousand people to get off their arses and stop watching televised sport. It is possibly still better than not having it at all. But yeah.

  • technicolour

    And although politics uses everything it can get, there is no doubt that the majority of people there were not being used, but were displaying the courage and dedication needed to fight this climate and so were an inspiration, full stop.

  • technicolour

    Sorry, getting too carried away with the importance of typing – those were just my opinions, of course.

  • Barbara

    I have lived the past thirty years in the Philippines, where handicapped people are often hidden away or mocked in innumerable unthinking ways. Not only do people with disabilities have to fight for public support, they have to fight against public prejuudice forged from fear and ignorance. The plight of people with disabilities in many other countries is as bad or worse. There is no comparison with the way people with disabilities are treated in Britain – and I agree there is much room for improvement even here.

    The Paralympics offer an arena where people with disabilities are treated with dignity and respect, and where they are able to achieve incredible feats. These images have impact. The scenes are televised all over the world, and present to some countries what is essentially a novel view of the disabled. There is inestimable value in presenting such alternative and inspiring events.

  • technicolour

    Barbara, sorry to hear that. And also sorry to say that there is every comparison with how ‘disabled’ people are treated here in the UK. Bert is not exaggerating.

  • anders7777

    Fireworks are bad, they don’t impress me at all, noisy smoky smelly things, catching your throat, searing the eye, reverberating in your eardrums plus lots of nasty materials, metals, chemicals spewing out, a lingering acrid pall for several days locally, for eternity in the closed biosphere we inhabit -they’re more of an assault than a spectacle.

    You must never have experienced a real Japanese fireworks festival!

    Unforgettable!

    Went twice in two evenings to the free one in Hyde Park back in the ’80s.

    It’s all about percussion, syncopation, and beauty…

    Put the headphones on and turn up the volume…

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GreaNhQzY5U

  • anders7777

    In fact Bert, I think Barbara and most people are capable of holding more than one thought in their head at the same time. This event saw the biggest protests against Atos and government policy yet, and although I’m not sure that anything will change this government’s disgusting policy towards disabled people, it has surely raised awareness that ‘they’ (because they are being targeted as another minority group) are real people who are…

    In fact, I can’t go on. You are quite right. In the current climate it t was a revolting exercise in showmanship over reality. It was like holding the ‘poor people’s games’ or the ‘OAPlympics’, where the winner is the one who doesn’t die of hypothermia first. I do think it has marginally raised awareness about Down’s syndrome. And probably inspired a few thousand people to get off their arses and stop watching televised sport. It is possibly still better than not having it at all. But yeah.

    I’m disabled. I refused to watch it, after the ATOS debacle.

    The paras should have been on BEFORE the main event, after, fuggedabouhdit – I go down the pub, nobody was watching it, nobody. Complete non-event where I live, a swish upmarket town near Cameron and cabal.

    The BBC were condescending, peppering their crappy show with token disabled along with unfunny Jimmy Carr, as if he doesn’t get enough exposure already.

    Totally fifth rate production.

    Why weren’t these same disabled experts on the panels of the main games? Why are disabled wheeled out every fours years then kicked in the teeth immediately after this crapola production finishes?

  • CheebaCow

    Suhayl, you have a beautiful family, thanks for sharing. I chuckled when I saw you were wearing a hat, but I was also expecting it 😉 BTW what style of pattern is that on your shirt?

    I gotta agree with Barbara about the fireworks. I don’t think I have met anyone before who didn’t like a good fireworks show.

    When living in the west, I didn’t have much time for the Paralympics. I saw them in much the same light as Anders777 just described. My opinion was recently changed when I saw some of the coverage of the event in Thailand. Thailand (like the Philippines, judging from Barbara) generally treats the disabled very poorly, and they get very little respect. I asked a friend what the Thai word for disabled is, he just told me a word that translates to ‘stupid’. I pushed a bit more and found that there is actually a specific word that means disabled, but no one ever uses it. This year the Thai athletes were much more successful in the Paralympics than the Olympics, and I think it’s just about the only positive depiction of disabled people I have seen since living here.

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