The fabric of Britain as we know it is being ripped apart. So much is changing, almost behind our backs, we haven't got time to notice what is happening to us. And it is happening fast.

Friday, 30 December 2011

On The Fifth Day of Xmas, My True Love Gave to Me... 5 Gold Rings

Gold rings? Perhaps platinum rings embedded with priceless diamonds would be a more appropriate analogy when talking about the Olympics.

Picture Credit 

Not that I am against the Olympic games - I think that they are a great opportunity for the country, but for once I must (with gritted teeth) agree with the Daily Mail who wrote earlier this month about the rising costs of the games.

Last week, the Games were going to need 10,000 guards. This week, the figure has been revised to 23,000. Once again, never mind. Let’s throw money at the problem. We are going to spend an extra £271 million to resolve the matter. That’s £21,000 per extra guard. Not bad for a fortnight’s work. That’s more than some soldiers in  Helmand get in a year

I admit to nodding along as Robert Hardman pointed out the excesses of the games. £80 million for the opening and closing ceremonies - an obscene amount of money that all the goodwill and positive marketing for UK cannot justify.

Part of the UK's winning bid was the promise that the British public would be inspired to do more sport, and that particularly the youth of Britain would benefit from the Olympic bid.

That seems as far fetched now as the idea that the games would cost just £2.9 billion.

The number of people playing sport three times or more a week has increased since 2007/08 by only 111,800  to 6.92m . The aim made be the previous government of encouraging a million new sports participants has been dropped. In fact, the number of people doing no exercise at all has risen to 57.8% of the population.

More worrying, is the downward trend amongst children but are we really surprised about this? With over 60% of funding for school sports being cut by the Conservative-Lib Dem coalition, is it any wonder than children and young adults are doing less sport?

While the press and politicians bemoan the obesity crisis of UK children, the incredibly popular School Sports Partnerships have seen their funding of £162 million withdrawn. (remember the £80m for the opening and closing ceremonies?)

Tessa Jowell stated earlier this month,

We welcome today’s focus on schools and the Olympics, but urge Michael Gove to rethink his decision to significantly cut funding to school sports. School Sports Partnerships were at the forefront of ensuring that the second key Olympic legacy pledge – to transform a generation of young people through sport – was met. 
“Instead, this out of touch Coalition have failed to recognise that SSPs were internationally acclaimed and were one of the reasons why between 2002 and 2010 the number of young people doing at least two or more hours of sport per week rose from 25 per cent to 90 per cent. The drop off since the Tory-led Government abolished the scheme has been extremely worrying.”

Here is an astounding statistic, from that press release:

Only 7% of children in UK are privately educated, but they make up 50% of Olympic medal winners.

We have to teach children when they are young about the importance of exercise and keeping fit. There is no point in lecturing them about this but when it comes to actually encouraging them to do sport saying, "You will have to ask your Mum and Dad if you can go to private sport lessons".

In times like these, when everyone is counting their pennies, many families just cannot afford after school clubs and lessons.  At an average of £5 a session for private lessons, the after-school swimming, gymnastics, judo or ballet lessons are falling victim of the credit crunch.

The cuts to publicly funded clubs and societies mean that there is little alternative. Public leisure centres around the country are searching for funding alternatives in the wake of the cuts to council budgets.

These cuts, like many other current "savings", are very short-sighted. The short term benefits for the economy are more than outweighed (no pun intended) by the long term consequences of a generation of unfit kids. The health costs to the children are bad enough - diabetes, heart issues, joint problems, without considering the financial costs to our already beleaguered NHS.

Unhealthy children grow into unhealthy adults. We must encourage children to lead healthy lifestyles, and give them the opportunity to take part in sports.

When we look at successful sporting nations, one thing is clear. The countries that encourage their children from an early age to take up sporting activities are always at the top of the medal tables. It is not just a moment on national pride, but a reflection of the importance that physical fitness has in the society.

For the good of our children, we must invest in their future health and fitness. Not just those children whose parents can afford private education and private sports lessons, but all children. Regardless of the wealth of their parents.

The Olympics of 2012 may well be a success for the nation, but what of the potential Olympians of 2020?

**** UPDATE *** 

Jeremy Hunt has stated that Britain will not host "Austerity Olympics". 

Jeremy Hunt believes that hosting the Games is an “incredible stroke of luck” during the global economic crisis as it will provide a “huge plus sign” for the struggling British economy. He also says demonstrators will be tolerated as long as their protests are legitimate and lawful.
 Mr Hunt says voters will never forgive the Government if it does not “make the most” of an unprecedented opportunity. “You can take two attitudes to the Olympics,” he says. “You can say: these are times of austerity and therefore we should pare them down as much as possible. Or, you can say: because these are times of austerity we need to do everything we possibly can to harness the opportunity of the Olympics.
“We’re going to be the centre of global attention and it will be the first time that we’ve had a major sporting event that’s watched live by half the world’s population. People would not forgive us if we didn’t make the absolute most of this moment.
“This is going to be an incredible expression of Britain’s culture, Britain’s history and Britain’s creativity. So, we decided that the sensible thing to do is to make sure that we finance it properly.”

It is difficult not to make use of rhyming slang. 
Yes, the Olympics are a great thing for Britain but do we really need to make them ostentatious. Everyone in the world knows we are going through tough times. It all screams of the old Scottish saying "Fur coat and nae knickers". 
We don't need to pretend we are doing great, there is no shame in saying that if we had hosted the Olympics eight years ago, that we would have put on the greatest show on earth.
At a time when people are being made homeless, when disabled children are having their services cut, when unemployment is soaring, and set to go even higher. Can we afford this? Absolutely not. 
The government is not saying what the extra £41m for the opening ceremony is being spent on exactly, only that it should be more "spectacular". 
What would you rather the government spent that £41m on? I could think of quite a few things. 

Tweet us using #austerityolympics and #frothers 

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  1. Well said - yet again those who already have money need not worry. It is an obscene amount of money to spend while they are cutting public services. Perhaps Top Shop & Vodaphone could pay for the opening?

  2. shocking isn't it. I too have to confess I am an "olympics supporter". (have 3 lots of tickets for the paralympics, and 1 for the olympics). But the slashing of funding for sports for children is dreadful. It's ok if you they like football <<>>> - but for children like mine who ^loathe^ the sport there is no other option as I can ill afford it.

  3. I love the idea of the Olympics, but feel that too much money is being spent on showing off rather than on the actual sport.

    Who cares if the firework display is larger or better than the one in Sydney, or Beijing?

  4. another fact i recently discovered is that only 'official' sponsors of the olympics will be allowed to advertise or draw attention to their products with any reference to the games, or they ate likely to be sued. I thought that the Olympics was supposed to be a chance to bring money into the country, but it seems that it is only wanted to go into the pockets of the 'big boys'. We have a guest house in the SE, which we hoped we could promote as being a great place to stay if you were planning to visit the games, but we are not allowed to. I am sure there are plenty more small businesses who felt they may be able to benefit from the influx of visitors.
    The huge amounts being spent is disgusting too, certainly when put in context with the school cuts and other cuts.

  5. What??? That's outrageous! From what you're saying, it seems "they" are treating the Olympics as a brand. It can't be, it's a generic term. I doubt the legality of this restriction.

    First question I'd ask is - sued by whom? Whoever it is, they cannot possibly have rights over the words London and Olympics.

    What a pettifogging bit of anti-competitive balls. Par for the course, with this lot. Defy it!


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