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Last Updated: Thursday, 17 February, 2005, 10:02 GMT
Saying no to London 2012
By Finlo Rohrer
BBC News

Reading some of the coverage of London's 2012 Olympics bid, it is easy to get the impression that it is a battle between optimism and cynicism.

If you believe in London's 2012 bid, you are a nice person who wants Britain to succeed. But express doubts and you are a Scrooge-like killjoy.

Dorando Pietri is helped across the line in the marathon at the 1908 London Olympics before being disqualified
London got the 1908 Olympics because of a volcano

The reasons for the bid appear to be unassailable - prestige, a huge boost to tourism, a boost to the economy and regeneration in deprived areas of east London.

But for all the upbeat PR delivered by supporters ranging from Tony Blair to the humblest sports centre caretaker - there are critics raising important questions about the bid.

Those concerns range from environmental worries and doubts about the value of regeneration, to the effects on small businesses and the costs for the city as a whole.

'IOC sensitivity'

NoLondon2012, is co-ordinating the efforts of the minority who openly oppose the bid, with demonstrations planned on Friday and Saturday.

The whole area will be scoured - it will be destroyed
Annie Chipchase
NoLondon2012

They take heart from the commonly-held view that the IOC is acutely sensitive to local opposition.

Organiser Annie Chipchase, an ecologist, said many of the benefits of having the games had been overstated, and that decisions had not been reached democratically.

"There has been no option to say no. There has been a suppression of any dissent, a diktat 'thou shalt back the bid'," she says.

Ms Chipchase believes the site of the games has been wrongly painted as a barren wasteland and would have been regenerated anyway.

Opening ceremony of the 1948 London Olympics
It had the Olympics again in 1948, known as the 'Austerity Games'

"It is being typified as a wasteland. It implies there is nothing there, but there is a whole network of waterways and associated habitats. I have organised walks to show it off.

"The area is well used for walking, cycling, jogging and fishing.

"Regeneration was going to happen anyway. A framework for development was being prepared before the bid, but once that happened it came to a grinding halt.

"Now the whole area will be scoured. It will be destroyed."

Barcelona model

London is one of the cities to have hosted the games twice. A last minute substitute for Vesuvius-stricken Italy in 1908, its successful bid for the 1940 games was delayed eight years by World War II.

But few host cities in recent years have been of a comparable size to London, or with such a unique economic status.

Athens and Sydney have half the population of greater London, and Atlanta and Barcelona were considerably smaller than London when they acted as hosts.

There are 300 companies who could quite easily go out of business
Isaac Behar

Indeed, many previous bidders have been looking to regenerate and transform their cities.

But it is unclear whether London can enjoy a Barcelonafication. It is already a tourist hotspot. It is already a mighty economic power.

And for all the sophisticated predictions, no-one can know what the effect on London will be.

Opponents think it quite possible that the sudden arrival of hundreds of thousands of tourists, preceded by a frenetic programme of building, could cause massive disruption in London.

Bulldozed businesses

NoLondon2012 has other concerns.

The group believes the games will be a waste of money, cause the loss of free sports facilities, push up rents, lead to environmental damage from increased air traffic and generally provoke chaos.

And there are the 350 business, and 15,000 employees, in the Marshgate Lane area of Stratford, whose premises will be bulldozed to make way for the games.

Scale model of Picketts Lock, cancelled in 2001
The cancellation of Picketts Lock was viewed as an embarrassment

Building material supplier Isaac Behar wants the games in London but fears bankruptcy.

"We are all on land that is cheap and near to everywhere. There is no other land available to for any of us that we can go to.

"There are 300 companies who could quite easily go out of business."

The bid officials and the government have answers for these criticisms. They point to backing from British Waterways and the London Wildlife Trust, and say the London Development Agency is meeting its legal requirements to compensate affected businesses.

But there will continue to be opponents who believe the Olympics will make London a less pleasant place to be.

Some feel the capital's creaking, over-crowded transport system will not be able to cope, whatever improvements are made in the next seven years.

Financial uncertainty

And perhaps the greatest criticism is financial.

The public will effectively be stumping up 2.4bn, as well as 800m on redeveloping the general area around the planned Olympic Park.

The 2012 officials have said they believe they can recoup the cost of the event and become one of the few hosts recently to make a profit.

But the example of Athens - where the cost of the games doubled from the original estimate - does not inspire faith.

And the shadows of the Dome, Wembley and Picketts Lock - the stadium that never was - loom large over the bid.

The bid's opponents aren't curmudgeons - their hearts will still flutter at the sight of another Kelly Holmes sprint finish - but they will remain sceptical until the end.




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