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TV review: "What have the Olympics done for me?"
Paul Callanan, Youth Fight for Jobs national organiser
BBC Three's Free Speech series recently held a discussion on the Olympic Games. The main topic was on the question "what have the Olympics done for me?"
A poll of 500 young people carried out by the programme found that the Games made 71% of people proud to be British. But the most telling figure is that 62% said the money would be better used elsewhere.
The fact that vicious cuts are being made while an estimated £11 billion is being spent on the Olympics was a major theme of the discussion. In response to an audience member pointing out that the Olympics haven't provided jobs for local people, Tasha Danvers, a bronze medallist at the 2008 Olympics, said "in reality that was never going to happen."
The most incisive contribution came from Symeon Brown, from the group Haringey Young People Empowered. He pointed to the fact that for many the Games were "an expression of inequality" and to "the contradiction between austerity and lavish games".
He pointed out that most Londoners feel like "the Olympics are a corporate charity and we pay for them". Many members of the audience took issue with the fact that the Games were supposed to promote health and fitness yet companies like McDonalds and Coca-Cola were official sponsors.
The response to all this from John Hayes, a minister in the Department for Education, was utterly pitiful, saying "how much does national pride cost!?"
Even Tasha Danvers took issue with this line of argument when she responded "yes I was proud when I crossed the line, but at the end of the day I've still got to eat, I've still got to pay the rent. Pride doesn't fill my belly, pride doesn't pay my rent". A lesson the politicians, who coincidently don't have worry about those things, would do well to learn.
Housing was also found to be a massive concern among young people in the audience. Symeon pointed out that according to a UN study the Olympics are the biggest cause of displacement in the world, due to sky-rocketing rents in the host cities. This was made much worse in London this year by the Tories' attacks on housing benefit for under-35s.
The attitude of most of the audience and most ordinary working class people in general was summed up by the response of one young woman to Hayes' point about how sponsorship led to more investment in sport. She said: "I don't really care that much, I care about keeping hospitals open, having provisions for young people".
The programme was a small taste of how people really feel about the Olympics. Clearly, at a time when austerity is being imposed on working class people, when lives are being destroyed as a result of attacks on our jobs and services, the Games are going to seem like a big extravagance.
As Symeon said towards the end of the programme "these should be a public games" rather than the "corporate hospitality" event that we have now.
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In The Socialist 25 July 2012:
Socialist Party news and analysis
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party reports and campaigns
Stop NHS cuts & privatisation
Socialist Party workplace news
Socialist Party review
Socialist Party appeal & news