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OLYMPIC BUDGET FOR THE HIGH JUMP

23-11-2006

Blimey, it seems like only five minutes since London was awarded the Olympics and already the budget is running away faster than Ben Johnson on steroids. Andy Goff tells those responsible to take a running jump.

In July last year I had an email from a contact in China congratulating me on Britain winning the 2012 Olympics. “Very kind” I thought. I had put in at least four seconds of thought on the subject, yet my inherent sense of patriotism was tickled by the idea that someone on the other side of world felt driven to comment on the matter.

I emailed back offering my thanks, but explained that as far I was concerned I saw the Olympics coming to Britain as comparable to the debacle of the Millennium Dome. I described it as the equivalent of a huge trough into which billions of pounds will be thrown for the City pigs to snuffle their swill out of. My reaction was not, I suspect, that which was expected given the enthusiasm with which the Chinese embraced their own successful Olympic bid.

Yesterday I was standing in a queue at a bank watching BBC News 24 on the large screen provided to keep the impatient hordes from rioting on the premises. My old pal Tessa Jowell was being questioned by a parliamentary committee on the subject of the Olympics. The original cost was estimated at just under £4 billion. The new estimate puts the cost at nearer £8 billion over six years.

I was shaking my head in despair as I watched this and the person behind me in the queue said, “It's obscene”. We pondered on what else this money could buy - schools, hospitals, rail systems, green initiatives, even body armour for soldiers. It was pretty plain, by the general reaction in the bank, that Kings Heath residents are not overly impressed by Britain “winning” the 2012 Olympics.

The good burghers of London will be increasing council tax to cover some of the costs and the Government will be using our taxes to pay other bills: All the while they'll be hoping big business will ride to the rescue, no doubt in exchange for the odd peerage, to cover the shortfall and make a profit appear miraculously from the pit.

However, today's politicians - those that committed the nation to this impending fiasco - will have long departed their positions of office when the British Olympics are over. They will have non-executive directorships on the boards of construction companies, catering companies, banks and city institutions. Viewed from the outside it looks like a giant pension plan for those that are well connected.

The fact that the original plan, put together to make the bid, failed to take into account VAT rather brings in to question the competence of those involved. Either VAT will be paid and add to the overall cost or VAT will be waived by a generous Chancellor. Either way we will ALL end up paying to fill the trough but very few of us will be snuffling our fill as the stench of anticipated corruption rises dome-like into the stadium.

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