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Last Updated: Thursday, 3 February, 2005, 16:38 GMT
Level playing field?
London is one of the five cities in the running to host the 2012 Olympics. A decision is due in July. But is the BBC too much of a cheerleader for the London bid? Is its reporting as critical as it could be?

Christopher MacDonald was one of the people to get in touch with the BBC over its coverage of the Olympic bid.

Christopher MacDonald
Christopher MacDonald: Too little analysis
"In everything that I have seen the bid has been put forward as the best thing for London since sliced bread," he says.

"Every step of the London bid has been followed slavishly but there's been little analysis of its potential impact or cost to London. A cynic might say that's hardly surprising given that the BBC holds the rights to broadcast the 2012 Games."

Mr MacDonald's main contention is that the bid is seen as a good thing. He wants more information and discussion on what else the 2.4bn earmarked for the project could buy.

Council tax rise

"In a report prepared in 2001, the same amount as the cost of the Olympics could provide for this country eight super-hospitals, 153 new primary schools or eight secondary schools," he says.

The Olympics would be funded by lottery cash, a grant from the London Development Agency, and a rise in the council tax in London, estimated at 20 a year on every bill for a decade.

The proposed stadium will mean businesses have to move
But what happens if the Games don't stick to budget, wonders Mr MacDonald? After all, Athens ended up spending 6bn last year, twice the original estimate. And Montreal is still paying off the 1976 Games.

He is also concerned about the legacy that will be left for the community after 2012. The Millennium Dome was supposed to regenerate Greenwich but that didn't really happen, says Mr MacDonald.

"Does London actually need a second velodrome?" he asks. "And how will this benefit the locals?"


He also touches on the human cost of the bid. If it's successful, 17,000 people working for about 300 businesses could be forced to move from the proposed stadium site. Compensation is being negotiated, but will all the affected businesses survive a move?

"We're not against the Olympics but what we do feel is that we need proper compensation and an assurance that we will be treated properly and a choice of venues for us to move to," explains Chris Taylor of Print Emporium.

"Having met local businessmen whose views have been nationally ignored by the BBC, their stories have made me even more convinced that London does not need or want the Olympic Games in 2012," says Mr MacDonald.

Sports correspondent Adam Parsons has just taken over as the BBC's Olympic bid specialist.

"I think Christopher reflects the fact that this is a very complex story because on the one hand even the people who are likely to have to transplant their businesses, might even lose their jobs, say they're supporting the Olympic bid.

Adam Parsons
My job is to scrutinise not just the London bid but the Paris one, the Madrid one and to treat them all equally
Adam Parsons
"What he's encapsulated is that there are many sides to this story. We've got six months to the bid and I think he's right, this is something we will be analysing in the coming months.

"I don't think the BBC could be accused of being cheerleaders for the London bid. The BBC is in a slightly curious position in the sense that it is an Olympic broadcaster.

BBC Sport will be broadcasting the 2012 Games whether they're in London or not. But as a news journalist, I'm entirely removed from that. My job is to scrutinise not just the London bid but the Paris one, the Madrid one and to treat them all equally.

Social implications

"In fact, the last time the bids were evaluated by the International Olympic Committee, London 2012 came out and said it was a great triumph, that they'd come out of it very well. But we said on the news that if you read those reports, London was trailing in third place.

"I can't really talk too much about reports that have gone before, but certainly I have seen topics such as the social implications reflected in our coverage. We've talked about the debts and we've talked about the legacy.

"And that's something I will continue to examine in the coming six months. Does the London bid stack up in terms of the legacy it leaves for the capital or will it burden London with an enormous debt?"



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