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From: The Socialist issue 776, 14 August 2013: Zero tolerance for zero-hours!

Search site for keywords: Olympics - London - Sport - Jobs - Cuts

London Olympics legacy - one year on

Chris Newby, London Socialist Party

Who can forget the tremendous excitement of last year when Usain Bolt, Mo Farah, David Weir and Jessica Ennis scorched around the track, of Michael Phelps and Ellie Simmonds in the pool and Bradley Wiggins winning gold in the cycling time trial?

These are just a few of the amazing achievements at the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics.

The atmosphere around the various stadia was electric. Other things that stood out for me were that volunteers helped make the games, Danny Boyle's opening ceremony and I think a moment of the games was the Venezuelan fencer Ruben Limardo showing off his gold medal to fellow travellers on London public transport.

Another enduring memory is the tremendous London-wide strike of bus workers who won their Olympic bonus. These are some of the memories that I will hang onto.

However, what is the real legacy that has been left behind after the Olympics have moved on? On the promise of leaving a lasting legacy and of transforming the area around Stratford, east London, these Olympics were brought in at a tremendous cost, 6.71 billion of public money, at the same time as massive attacks on jobs, public services and benefits.

Sporting facilities?

Yes, it's true that we have new sporting facilities in east London, such as the main stadium, the swimming pools and the velodrome, as well as the parks.

But the main stadium has been sold off to West Ham United at a loss. The Qatari Royal family's property firm bought the Olympic village at a loss to the UK taxpayer of 275 million.

The swimming pools are now owned by Greenwich Leisure Ltd (GLL), a private company that owns many former council run gyms and pools across London.

And the much touted new school on the site will be an academy, outside of local authority control.

It's the same old message from capitalism: while public money is used to build these tremendous resources, they are sold off to private bodies to make a profit.

Participation?

What of the legacy for greater sports participation? Government austerity means deep cuts into all aspects of life and sport is no different.

The school sport partnership was scrapped by the Con-Dems, meaning 162 million cuts from schools sport, though since partly restored under pressure.

But let's not forget, the previous Labour government also made cuts to schools sports facilities. Is it any wonder then that only 8% of secondary school teachers reported an increase in student participation in sport since the 2012 games?

In Merton, south London, councillors sold off a public sports hall to a private school. This has left Olympic medallist Ray Stevens without a home for his popular judo club which regularly attracts disabled or disadvantaged kids.

More widely, the government has cut funding to grassroots sport by 5%. While participation in sport has increased by 1.4 million since the London bid won in 2005, from April 2012 to April 2013 it declined.

Is this any wonder when the majority of the population had their living standards attacked and most sports facilities are in private hands?

Incredibly, a private company - Will to Win - has been handed the contract to charge park users for "informal sports" in parks like Hyde Park and Regents Park. So if you just wanted a kick around with a football, you're likely to be charged! What does that do for developing more participation in sport?

Even some elite sports are under threat. The Don Valley stadium, where Olympic gold medallist Jessica Ennis trained, is to close because of funding cuts.

Elite swimming has faced funding cuts by UK Sport, which has led to the closure of one of the five Intensive Training Centres (ITCs).

The facilities at the now defunct ITC in Stockport were described by Olympic medallist Steve Parry as "the best in the world".

Jobs and homes?

A lot was also made of the legacy for jobs and homes in East London. In Newham, one of London's most deprived boroughs, the promise of new homes now appears to be hollow.

In the first batch of the 8,000 homes that will be provided, 675 will be "socially rented" of which 350 will be made available to people on Newham's housing list, with 32,000 waiting on it.

According to Shelter, it will take Newham almost 40 years to clear its waiting list at the current rate of construction. 40% of new housing at the Olympic site is described as affordable.

But according to some housing experts, "affordable" housing now requires a household to earn at least 30,000 a year, beyond most people in the borough.

Promises of long term jobs also seem to be flights of fancy. Newham says 5,000 residents were helped into Games-time jobs, but most were temporary.

Of the 20 million promised through the Olympic legacy for training and support for the long-term unemployed, just 8 million has been spent, while fewer than half of the 6,500 long-term unemployed have got the jobs that London mayor Boris Johnson pledged for them. The 2012 Employment Legacy Project was cancelled at the start of 2013.

A proper sporting legacy will only be fully achieved once the dead hand of profit is removed from the scene.

This means sports facilities publicly owned and controlled, and free at the point of use, alongside all other public facilities such as health and education, and that people have the time to actively participate in sport.

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The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.

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