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2012 London Olympic Games - A History of Problems Continues
12 April, 2012 10:09
Following the path to the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London, this is the second article in the series covering the Games. The first, "London's Preparations", covered the developments in the city. As the event creeps ever closer, more problems appear and locals and expats in the city examine if it's all worth it.
London 2012 Olympic Games
First, some of the details of the event
When: July 27 to August 12, 2012
Official Website: http://www.london2012.com/
Ticket Information: http://www.tickets.london2012.com/homepage
Issues with the Games
Problems are common for an huge, international event and the Games have never been immune to trouble.
7 Controversies Surrounding the Olympic Games
- The International Olympics Committee (IOC) has often been criticized for being an intractable organization. It's been discovered that IOC members took bribes in Salt Lake City bid committee, and a BBC documentary entitled "Panorama: Buying the Games" alleges that bribes were taken in the bidding process for the 2012 Summer Olympics.
- Australia, Great Britain and Switzerland are the only countries to send a team to every Olympic Games. Boycotts have occurred several times including the Olympic Council of Ireland boycotting the 1936 Berlin Games, 3 boycotts of the 1956 Melbourne Olympics, and Cold War opponents boycotting each other's Games in 1980 and 1984.
- Politics have caused controversy through the history of the Olympics. Though the event is supposed to be an apolitical event, the strong feelings of national pride can often erupt in open conflict. Nazi Germany wished to portray the Nationalist Socialist Party in a positive light by hosting the 1936 Games, but their doctrine of Aryan superiority was also featured.
- Gender discrimination has also occasionally cast a cloud over the Games. The first female athletes were allowed to compete during the 1900 Summer Olympics in Paris and by 2010 only three countries have never sent female athletes to the Games: Brunei, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. The IOC has pressed these countries to enable and facilitate the participation of women for the 2012 Summer Games and Qatar responded that it "hoped to send up to four female athletes in shooting and fencing". On the other hand, Saudi Arabia's national law explicitly prohibits women from competing at the Olympics (IOC faces calls to ban Saudi Arabia).
- The use of performance-enhancing drugs has consistently been a problem in professional sports and has been an issue in the Olympic Games. The winner of the marathon at the 1904 Games, Thomas Hicks, was one of the first to be accused of doping. The first Olympic athlete to test positive for the use of performance enhancing drugs was Hans-Gunnar Liljenwall, a Swedish pentathlete at the 1968 Summer Olympics, who lost his bronze medal for alcohol use. The most publicized doping-related disqualification was that of Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson, who won the 100 meter dash at the 1988 Seoul Olympics but tested positive for stanozolol. His gold medal was subsequently stripped and awarded to runner-up Carl Lewis, who himself had tested positive for banned substances prior to the Olympics. During the Beijing games, 3,667 athletes were tested and several athletes were barred from competition by their National Olympic Committees prior to the Games. Only three athletes failed drug tests while in competition in Beijing.
- Terrorism has had an impact on the Olympic Games. In 1972, during the Summer Games in Munich, Germany eleven members of the Israeli Olympic team were attacked. The terrorist group Black September killed two of the athletes soon after they had taken them hostage and killed the other nine during a failed liberation attempt. A German police officer and 5 terrorists also perished in what is now known as the Munich massacre. During the Summer Olympics in 1996 in Atlanta, United States, a bomb was detonated at the Centennial Olympic Park, killing two and injuring 111 others.
- War has interrupted the Games several times. The 1916 Games were canceled because of World War I, and the summer and winter games of 1940 and 1944 were canceled because of World War II. More recently, the South Ossetia War between Georgia and Russia erupted on the opening day of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. These aggressions were countered by athletes Nino Salukvadze of Georgia and Natalia Paderina of Russia embracing on the podium.
The Upcoming Games
Accusations of Obsessive Secrecy
One of the most frustrating issues with the troubled path to the London Olympics is the obsessive secrecy of the organizers. Local politicians have been largely kept out of the planning and a breakdown of Olympics ticket pricing will be unavailable until the Games are over. It appears that a number of the cheaper tickets available to the public (as opposed to those set aside for the media, public officials, and athletes's families) only granted access to events like low-stakes soccer match-ups and Paralympic competitions. No one will know for certain until after the Games.
Developments like new stadiums and improvements to the city's infrastructure are understandably expensive. The predicted cost of the games when London won the bid in 2005 was £2.37 billion. The Olympics public sector funding package, which covers the building of the venues, security and policing, was upped to around £9.3 billion in 2007 and it now looks as if these estimates were still too conservative. Sky News researched the expenses of the Games and discovered that the true expense could be over £12 billion, an overage of £2.7 billion!
The Public Accounts Committee (PAC), and the public, have raised concerns about the management of those funds. The actual cost to the taxpayer of the Games will be in excess of £11 billion once the £766m cost of buying back the Olympic Park and legacy costs of £826m are factored in. Possibly most worrying are the unexplained increases like the original security budget of £282 million increased to £553 million. How many more surprises are to come?
Disruption in Transport
Even people who are leaving for the events themselves are struggling with the current disruption in the transportation system. It is predicted that tube passengers may face delays of more than 30 minutes at peak times in stations like Canary Wharf, Bond Street and Bank (and commuters are advised to plan up to 3 hours more for their journey in the morning). About 30 miles of the 109-mile Olympic route network will include "games lanes" reserved exclusively for Olympic transport.
London Transport Commissioner Peter Hendy said, "On the busiest days, we expect around an additional three million journeys on the capital's transport networks at Games-time."
Locog chair Sebastian Coe explained, "The scale of the Games is unprecedented - across both Games there will be 14,000 athletes, 7,000 technical officials, more than 20,000 media and 11 million spectators... Success depends on all of us doing our bit to keep London and the UK moving."
Efforts have been made to ease the congestion. The site, www.getaheadofthegames.com, identifies travel hotspots, allowing travelers to plan journeys in advance. Passengers can select their intended travel dates on an interactive map and find predictions on the traffic at specific Tube stations. The predictions are based on the number of passengers who typically use public transport and the road network during the summer, taking into consideration the average increase the Olympic Games brings. A guide to transport options is provided by Get Ahead of the Games. In addition, hours are increased for the Tube and DLR services which will be running on Sundays with increased hours in the evenings.
Visiting London & the Games
Need to know more about traveling to London, expat issues in the UK, or need a guide to the city? The expat guide to London is what you need!
Have a post about the Olympics you would like share? Let us know in the comments section!