An asset waiting to be stripped: the Olympic Stadium, east London.
Even before the 2012 Olympic stadium and assorted developments in the £9.3 billion Olympic Village have been finished, the vultures are circling to asset strip this vast publicly funded site. More than 100 bids have been made for the Olympic stadium alone, with assets across London being earmarked for a future sell-off. With the government hell bent on cutting its perception of the public deficit, instead of treasuring this huge investment of public monies, a quick return fire damage sale is planned.
The Olympic Park Legacy Company (OPLC) will oversee bids for the assets. Their decision will be arrived at in 2011, before the Games begin. There will be a massive handout to big entertainment businesses. The joint bid by Newham Borough Council and West Ham Football Club for the stadium, associated health centres and social housing looks likely to run into the sand. The US-based company AEG, which already owns the £350 million refurbished O2 Dome in Greenwich, has made very loud noises about taking over the stadium. The chairwoman of OPLC was the then civil servant that agreed AEG’s takeover bid of the O2 from the government’s Millennium Dome project.
AEG had originally planned an entertainment and sporting complex in Greenwich. This would have seen the O2 Dome coupled with a takeover of failing Charlton Athletic Football Club with the intention of creating a mega-series of entertainment complexes in South East London. This would have rivalled the recently rebuilt Wembley complex. But the opportunity to capture a state-of-the-art, brand-new site with 21st-century transport connections, has meant poor Charlton, beset with 19th-century travel difficulties and access, being unceremoniously dumped.
All the promises to the International Olympic Committee of retaining the Olympic Village as a publicly owned world-class athletic and sporting venture are to be reneged on. The mantra from the Legacy Company is that only the “market” can save the Village from becoming a white elephant like the sites in Barcelona, Athens and Sydney. Only someone like AEG can find the annual maintenance costs of £1 million, or so the mantra drones. AEG is reputed to be looking at bringing international and county cricket as well as international and national football to the stadium topped off with American football. There is the whiff of the Colosseum in London’s decline – circuses and sports.
• Figures released by the Olympic Delivery Authority show that only 350 fully qualified craftsmen and women will comprise the tidal wave of the skills legacy left after the 2012 Games – a mere 3 per cent of those employed out of the 10,000 construction workers. Figures indicate that only 1 per cent of those employed are British citizens. So much for jobs in the East End and skilled jobs for the future!
To date only seven apprentices have qualified: five electricians, one bricklayer and one plumber. Most apprentices will not complete their training during the Olympic build. The construction trade unions, led by UCATT, are campaigning to ensure that all these young workers are retained in public works construction so as to be able to fully qualify. To date the Olympics has cost £9.3 billion.