The Olympics

The Olympics

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News, information and stories about the 2016 Brazilian Olympic Games and the Olympics in general.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Who's In Charge?

There is confusion at the centre of government today, following new Prime Minister Gordon Brown's changes to cabinet. Specifically the confusion centres on the changes made to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport which is handling the London Olympics 2012.

Tessa Jowell was retained as Olympics minister. However, she lost her job as secretary of state for culture.

Jowell will oversee the Government Olympic Executive (GOE), the DCMS unit responsible for liaising with the games. Jowell will continue to attend Cabinet and report directly to the prime minister, but she will no longer have the seniority of a secretary of state. She will remain chair of the Olympic Board and be answerable to parliament.

Her replacement as culture secretary is James Purnell. In a further twist of the knife by Brown, that signals his displeasure with Jowell, it should be noted that Purnell was a junior minister under Jowell in 2005.

The nature of the muddled re-organisation means that Purnell, despite in theory being Jowell's boss, will have no direct influence over the Olympics.

Jowell put a brave face on her demotion, saying:

"I'm really, really pleased to be continuing as Olympics minister.

It is a cause that I am absolutely passionate about and I fundamentally believe in the power of the games to improve people's lives. There is no question that this is a confusion or a muddle.

I have long said that the Olympics needs enhanced ministerial capacity and Gordon has asked me to do that. The point of placing it in the Cabinet Office is that it reports directly to him and underlines the importance he attaches to it. In functional terms nothing has changed
."

By making these changes, Brown has signalled that he does not think that Jowell was up to the Job of running the department. However, by leaving her in charge of the Olympics and appointing her junior to her old position he has ensured that the organisation of the London Olympics will be muddled, confused and lacking clarity of leadership.

In short, it is a recipe for disaster.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Chinese Visit States

Chinese officials, as they gear themselves up for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, are taking advice from researchers in North Carolina to help combat smog and other environmental problems in Beijing.

A group of Chinese air modelers, engineers and meteorologists recently completed three weeks of training at RTI International, a research institute based at Research Triangle Park, where they learned to use state-of-the-art computer modeling to forecast air pollution.

Bob Zerbonia, project director for RTI, said:

"They have some pretty severe air pollution problems.

They have been addressing them but are still not where they want to be. The Olympics are the driving force now, but it's a long-term deal
."

Environmental improvement efforts in Beijing have been hampered by the country's rapid growth, a high level of construction activity and increasing number of vehicles on the roads.

Shi Aijun, director of monitoring and pollution management for the city of Beijing, said:

"We hope the effort of this project will help Beijing produce more scientific and economically efficient pollution control strategies.

Specifically, by using this modeling system, we can finally decide which are the major emission sources
."

Special measures will be implemented before the Olympics, including a 30% cut in emissions from factories, replacement of old diesel buses and taxis, and tighter emission standards for automobiles.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Jowell To Explain Herself

Tessa Jowell, the Olympics Minister, will explain today how the government will repay the £675M that it has taken from the national lottery to cover the ever spiralling costs of the London 2012 Olympics.

A memorandum of understanding between Jowell and Ken Livingstone, the mayor of London, will explain how the money is to be clawed back from land sales from the Olympic Park at Stratford.

Under the terms of the memorandum, which will be deposited in the library of the House of Commons, Jowell and Livingstone explain that the £675m will start to be repaid after 2012; once the London Development Agency has recovered the £650M it has spent on acquiring the Olympic Park site.

There is no mention about paying interest on the money.

A week is a long time in politics, 5 years is an eternity. It is therefore highly likely that the government will renege on this agreement before then.

The national lottery will never see that money again.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Torchbearer Recruitment Drive

Beijing has launched a massive recruitment drive to hire over 21,000 Olympic torchbearers for the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

The organising committee (BOCOG) plans to have 21,880 torch bearers, both home and abroad, for the 137,000km torch relay route.

Jiang Xiaoyu, executive vice president of BOCOG, said:

"There are two ways of becoming a torch bearer.

The first one is through recommendations by various organisations and institutions. Another way is an open process in which public recommendations are accepted.

In a few days, the public will know how to relay as respective organisations and institutions will announce their own application process. But none of them are allowed to add additional requirements to the existing ones
."

BOCOG has set no limits on gender, career, nationality or health. Seemingly non Chinese nationals can account for up to 5% of the torch bearers on the Chinese mainland, which will have 19,400 in total.

The deadline for submitting applications is October 31st, BOCOG will make the final confirmation before December 30th.

The Beijing Olympics flame will be lit in March 2008, in Greece before starting its 130 day journey.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Olympic Money Row

A row has broken out over the use of lottery money to fund the ever growing London 2012 Olympics Games budget.

The Culture, Media and Sport committee are very unhappy that lottery money is being diverted from British museums and galleries to pay for the 2012 Olympics. They have stated in a report, entitled "Caring for Our Collections", that the money should be treated as a loan and repaid.

The report also states that no more money should be drained from the Heritage Lottery Fund, or other lottery distributors, if the Olympic bill exceeds the figure set out by Tessa Jowell on March 15.

As yet, there has been no response from Jowell.

Friday, June 22, 2007

The Cultured Olympics

The London 2012 Olympics will be hyped by a nationwide festival of culture, which will start next summer, according to Olympics organisers yesterday.

The festival will include an international Shakespeare festival, and mark the beginning of a four-year film and video project across Britain.

The festival is the first of 10 major projects to mark the Olympics. The projects are being planned in partnership with organisations such as the BBC, and the UK Film Council. The arts sector is being told how it can get involved in the celebrations.

It is somewhat ironic that arts are being used to promote the Olympics, and being told what to do, given that Lottery money intended for the arts is being diverted to fund the Olympic budget shortfall.

A tad hypocritical, wouldn't you say?

In a related announcement, there are plans for a logo to endorse sporting, community and cultural projects.

Guess who will be designing that?

Yes, that's right, the same company behind the "Lisa Simpson Gives Head" London Olympics logo!

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Skateboarding

Further to my recent article about the possibility of skateboarding being recognised by the IOC, in time for the 2012 London Olympics, I have been advised that there is a petition opposing it being made an Olympic sport.

The petitioners state:

"Skateboarding is not a "sport" and we do not want skateboarding exploited and transformed to fit into the Olympic program. We feel that Olympic involvement will change the face of skateboarding and its individuality and freedoms forever. We feel it would not in any way support skateboarders or skateparks. We do not wish to be part of it and will not support the Olympics if skateboarding is added as an Olympic sport."

There is also, so I understand, some considerable suspicion about the motivation and impartiality of those who are pushing for recognition of skateboarding as an Olympic event.

The petition can be viewed, and signed, via this link Skateboarding petition.

I Am Sailing

The cost of policing Olympic events in Dorset, for the 2012 Olympics, is estimated to be at least £21M.

Dorset police have submitted a request to the government to foot the bill for the security needed for the sailing events for the 2012 London Olympics.

Needless to say, there is quite a difference between asking and receiving!

Annette Brooke, Lib Dem MP for Mid-Dorset and North Poole, said:

"My greatest concern is to make sure this does come from central funds allocated for the Olympic Games and most of all that Dorset Police has the money up front.

It's going to be such a huge proportion of their overall budget
."

A spokeswoman for Dorset Police said, without apparent irony:

"We can confirm a bid of £21m has been put forward to the Home Office but this has not yet been approved and we are not expecting approval anytime soon. These things take a considerable period of time."

Quite!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Brown Robs Bank Accounts To Fund Olympics

The budget row over the London 2012 Olympic Games has escalated, as Gordon Brown has been accused of robbing dormant bak accounts to pay for the ever spiralling costs of the London games.

Ed Balls, Brown's Economic Secretary, was questioned by MPs on the all party Treasury select committee about how money in dormant bank and building society accounts for 15 years or more will be used when transferred to a new unclaimed assets fund.

Balls said that the estimated £400M, expected to be raised, had two key priorities which are to improve youth services and financial inclusion.

However, Tory MP Michael Fallon said that these causes should in fact receive grants from the National Lottery. Instead the National Lottery is having to provide an extra £675M towards the cost of the London Olympics.

Fallon said:

"In essence minister, you are robbing people's private accounts to pay for Olympic mismanagement."

The budget for the Games has ballooned to £12BN, and is likely to continue to rise.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Skateboarding

It seems that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) look set to accept skateboarding as an Olympic sport, just in time for the London 2012 Olympic Games.

Why this sudden rush to bring on board a teenage pastime?

Simple, it's the money stupid!

Advertisers know that their revenue streams are maximised amongst the teens and under 30 age groups. Much of the current range of Olympic sports simply does not grab that age group's attention, as much as skateboarding is perceived to do.

Doubtless in future Games, we will see Olympic Nintendo and X Box championships!

Monday, June 18, 2007

Jowell Jubilant

Tessa Jowell was quick to congratulate herself, and the London Olympics Organising Committee, on the back of the report from the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

Jowell, The Secretary for Culture, Media and Sport, said that the IOC's evaluation committee had examined 17 elements of the plans for the 2012 Games.

Their report was "apparently the best report they've ever given a city".

Ms Jowell added that the 15 inspectors were "even more fulsome" during private conversations with her.

Quote:

"They regard us as doing better than any city. We're ahead of other cities, and on every single measure that they've applied to us we're doing precisely what they want, and precisely what they expect.

That could hardly have been better.

I think the inspectors kind of warmed to that sense of commitment, because they all believe in the benefit, if you like the magic, that the Olympic Games can bring to a city.

I spent quite a lot of time with them. They didn't say anything to me privately that was not reflected in what they said publicly.

In fact, they were even more fulsome privately in the discussions I had with them than they were publicly.
"

The IOC, in slightly less gushing terms, said that it was "satisfied we don't have any areas of concern" at the end of its visit.

Jowell is of course concerned over here future, once Gordon Brown takes over from Tony Blair.

Pride comes before a fall!

Friday, June 15, 2007

Preparations for London 2012 Olympics Praised

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) fact finding mission to London has praised London 2012 organisers for their preparations, including the much derided logo.

Denis Oswald, the head of the IOC's coordination commission, said that he was pleased with all levels of planning.

Quote:

"Two years after London got the games, we are impressed by the level of detail in the preparation.

London is on track and on time
."

London is most certainly not on budget, which has ballooned to £12BN!

Oswald's 15 member inspection team reviewed London's preparations, including venue construction, sport, staffing, media and technology. It was the group's first visit since April 2006.

Oswald said London's legacy plans were as promised, when it won the bid in July 2005.

Quote:

"This legacy is very important.

We really consider that London will be a model for a future host city of the Olympic Games as far as legacy is concerned
."

Referring to the derided Olympics logo, Oswald said:

"I love it.

It's very dramatic, very creative, very young, very dynamic and includes a lot of flexibility. I was really enthusiastic and it is not because I've read that some people have criticised this logo that I will change my mind. It's just a fantastic logo
."

Great!

So what about the ballooning budget then?????

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Inquiry Into London Logo Fiasco

Finally the London Olympic organisers have admitted that all may not be right with the "Lisa Simpson Gives Head" London 2102 Olympics logo design.

Lord Coe, chairman of the London organising committee, has announced that there will be an inquiry into last week's disastrous launch of promotional footage for the new Games logo which was blamed for causing 30 people to suffer epileptic seizures.

Lord Coe said that he was considering legal action against the production company, Live!, that was responsible for the footage.

Quote:

"We have set up an internal inquiry into exactly what happened with our supplier and the promotional footage that was shown.

We are getting to the bottom of what checks were made
."

A spokeswoman for the charity Epilepsy Action said:

"We now know of 30 people who have suffered fits as a result of this film.

This has affected people's lives and we were really hoping that Lord Coe might apologise for what happened
."

Once the internal investigation has been completed, Lord Coe and the committee will decide if there is a case against Live.

What a shambles!

It is noteworthy that there is, as yet, no investigation into the actual quality of the design or the tendering process (whereby no one sought to examine samples of possible designs for the logo).

Doubtless these investigations will be announced in due course?

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Child Labour

As the 2008 Beijing Olympics draws ever closer, the media scrutiny of the preparations for the games increases.

As such it should come as no surprise to see reports emerging of allegations about child labour being used to manufacture some Olympics merchandise.

Playfair 2008 allege that some Chinese factories are producing Olympic caps and hats by using child labour, paying half the minimum wage and forcing employees to work seven days a week.

The report by Playfair 2008 alleges that some are getting 12-year-olds to work 15-hour shifts in unsafe and unhealthy conditions.

The Brussels-based International Trade Union Confederation said that they want the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to add employment conditions to licensing contracts. Beijing Games licensing may generate $70M in revenue, according to the report.

Lee Cheuk Yan, general secretary of the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions, said:

"The horrendous conditions faced by Chinese workers working on Olympic products puts the IOC and the Chinese government to shame."

The Lausanne, Switzerland-based Olympic committee said it doesn't manage production of Olympic-related products. Beijing 2008 organisers said they would investigate the factories.

Giselle Davies, IOC spokeswoman, said:

"The IOC is committed to being a socially responsible leader of the Olympic movement that takes care of the Olympic brand in the best way possible. It matters to us that sourcing is done ethically."

This somewhat laissez faire response is surprising.

The IOC would do to remember that whenever anyone allegedly infringes the copyright of the Olympic rings/logo or name, the IOC is very "quick off the blocks" to litigate. It will be interesting to see how speedy they are in this matter.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

An Inpsector Calls

Sixteen members of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) are in London today, to review progress of preparations for the 2012 London Olympic games.

It fair to say that they are hoping that the furore over the logo will have died down a bit, clearly they don't know/understand the tabloid press in this country very well!

The Olympic commissioners will be the first passengers on a test train trying out the seven-minute shuttle between Stratford International Station, in East London, and the new St Pancras International Station.

They will be travelling by a Eurostar train, because the new high speed javelin trains are not yet in operation.

During the Games this service is in theory going to transport 25,000 passengers an hour.

Given the state of the rail network in this country, that is quite a gamble.

Monday, June 11, 2007

London Logo Farce - The Farce Continues III

London Logo Farce - The Farce Continues IIIThe row over the "Lisa Simpson Giving Head" London Olympics logo continues, with Gordon Brown bringing his great big "clunking fist" into the argument.

Brown, during a reception for sports journalists in Number 11 Downing Street, joked that the reason his guests were standing on a wooden floor rather than a carpet was because "all the money has gone on the Olympic logo".

It now transpires that the London Olympic organising committee hired the company that designed the logo, Wolff Olins, without ever looking at any of its designs.

Given that this little exercise cost the tax payer £400K, you would have thought that some form of professional tendering process would have been carried out...wouldn't you?

The words "piss up" and "brewery" spring to mind!

Undeterred the organisers will be merchandising all sorts of stuff that contain the design. Seemingly we will soon be able to buy curtains and wallpaper with the logo.

Words fail me.

However, there is no need to despair, Wolff Olins is understood to be delighted at the high levels of "brand recognition" caused by the negative publicity over the design.

So that's alright then!

It also appears that the design is not yet finished, and that there will be further additions to the blank spaces in the blocks as the years pass by.

Many of the images used to "infill" the shapes will be created by the public, who will be encouraged to enter competitions held every six months, with the winner chosen by online votes.

Given that the logo is "unfinished", and that the public will be roped in to "finish it", why has the £400K been handed over to Wolff Olins?

Saturday, June 9, 2007

A Collosal Waste of Money

As if the London Olympics Organising Committee did not have enough to worry about, another problem has reared its head.

A furore has erupted over the proposal to site the Olympic shooting range in the Royal Artillery Barracks Woolwich. The problem is that, aside from the cost of £16M, the gallery will be removed 6 weeks after the Olympics in 2012.

Needless to say the plan has been branded by local residents and others as a "colossal waste of money".

British Shooting, the governing body of Britain's Olympic shooters, says it is "concerned" about the choice of venue.

There are other venues which are more suitable in terms of safety and will be permanent fixtures, eg the Dartford Clay Shooting Club.

However, the London organising committee have stated:

"We are now contractually bound to deliver Woolwich as the venue for shooting and this will not change."

Given the enormous costs of the London Games (£12BN), £16M is but a drop in the ocean!

Friday, June 8, 2007

London Logo Farce - The Farce Continues II

London LogoThe media are having a field day with the ongoing farce over the "Lisa Simpson giving a blow job" Olympics logo, as such it should come as no surprise to learn that MP's have attached themselves to the bandwagon calling for the logo to be put out of its misery.

In a Commons early day motion, Philip Davies (Con Shipley) called the design a "pathetic attempt to appear trendy" and called for it to be scrapped.

He added that the £400K price tag was a "spectacular waste of money".

Mr Davies said:

"The new logo for the 2012 Olympics is childish, ridiculous and a pathetic attempt to appear trendy and brings the London Olympics, which should be an event of great national pride, into disrepute."

His motion has been signed by three other MPs.

I would, however, agree with one thing that Tessa Jowell said; the controversy over the logo has prompted an outpouring of creative talent (as people submit better versions), and has attracted a very large amount of publicity for the London 2102 Olympics.

So it's not all bad then!

Thursday, June 7, 2007

London Logo Farce - The Farce Continues

London Logo FarceAs if things could not get much worse for the hapless London 2102 Olympics Organisers and the designers of the much derided "Lisa Simpson Performs Oral Sex" Olympic Logo, they do get worse.

London Mayor, Ken Livingstone, weighed in yesterday saying that the designers have failed and should not be paid the £400K for their epileptic inducing design.

Quote:

"Who would go to a firm like that again to ask them to do that work? I mean, this is a pretty basic thing".

Livingstone is known to hate the design.

On top of that an online petition to withdraw the logo has been started.

There are also reports that the International Olympic Committee are unhappy with the size of the Olympic rings in the logo, and may ask for a rework.

Maybe all of this shambles is down to one little known fact, Sebastian Coe (head of the London Organising Committee) is colour blind?

However, as this shambles progresses it is symbolic of the appalling organisation and lack of control over the budget of the London 2012 fiasco.

This story will run and run.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

London Logo Farce

London LogoThe farce over the London 2012 Olympics logo, that cost £400K and has been likened to Lisa Simpson performing a blow job and the SS symbol from Nazi Germany, has taken a turn for the worse.

Aside from being roundly criticised by all and sundry for creating what amounts to little more than a series of unpleasant splodges, with nothing whatsoever to do with London or the Games, the London Olympic Committee have now had to withdraw the animated version from their website.

Why?

Seemingly large numbers of people have complained of having an epileptic fit whilst looking at it.

Well done lads!

The shambles surrounding the logo is symbolic of the shambles over the planning of this costly white elephant of a Games.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

1.5M Displaced For Olympics

The Olympics are expensive and expensive exercise, not just in terms of time and money, but also in terms of human misery.

That at least is the view of of the Geneva based Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE), which has stated that some 1.5 million residents of Beijing will be displaced by the time it hosts the 2008 Olympics; many evicted against their will.

COHRE claims that residents are often forced from their homes with little notice and little compensation, as the Chinese government embarks on a massive city redevelopment to accommodate the Games.

Quote:

"In Beijing, and in China more generally, the process of demolition and eviction is characterised by arbitrariness and lack of due process."

China's Foreign Ministry said it was groundless and the figures vastly inflated.

Spokeswoman Jiang Yu said 6,037 people had been displaced since 2002 for the construction of Olympic stadiums.

Quote:

"During the process, the citizens have had their compensation property settled. No single person was forced to move out of Beijing."

COHRE should be aware that China is embarking on a period of unprecedented growth and economic development, the Games are merely the catalyst for the upheavals to come.

Monday, June 4, 2007

London Olympics Logo Unveiled

2012 LogoThe logo for 2012 London Olympics and Paralympics was unveiled today.

Allegedly it is based on the number 2012.

Quite what the design has to do with London is beyond me.

It cost £400K to create, and we will be bombarded with it until the end of the games in August 2012.

Hardly money well spent!

Friday, June 1, 2007

Olympic Clean Up

Shi Hanmin, director of the Beijing Environmental Protection Bureau, said that Beijing was expected to invest over $3.29BN in anti pollution measure this year.

"Now Beijing is in the critical phase of pollution control ahead of the Olympics. Investments will be largely increased as expensive and large facilities are built so we estimated that the city will spend more than that of last year."

Beijing vice mayor, Ji Lin, said that Beijing had invested a total of $16BN in the past 10 years to protect environment.

Quote:

"The large-scale environment protection was begun in Beijing in 1998 when the government spent 5.4 billion yuan ($0.7BN) and the sum of spending on it kept increasing. The number reached 10 billion ($1.4BN) in 2005."

However, the number of cars in Beijing now exceeds three million. As such, the government plans to stop using some cars during the Olympic Games to ease the traffic and improve air quality.

Ji said:

"Car control, that is to temporarily ban part of the cars, is necessary both for traffic administration and air pollution control.

But the number is yet to be decided. We need to take reasonable measures which least affect Beijing residents' daily life.

I heard of some experience from past Olympic host cities such as Atlanta.

But to ensure clean air during the Olympics, we have to begin working on it a couple of years ahead.

So we have some other measures to implement now
."

Ji also said that the government is going to eliminate 2,580 buses and over 5,000 taxi cabs this year.

An Olympic task in itself!