Could we have a Corporate-free Olympics? Yes we could!
By Natalie Bennett
Do we have to sentence Olympics visitors to eat plastic buns and drink vast tubs of sugary drinks, subject them to the promotion of the dubious Dow Chemicals, and force Paralympics athletes to compete under the shadow of the sponsorship of the hated work capability test providers ATOS? When we see police officers forced to empty their crisps into paper bags to avoid having the “wrong” brand on show then something has surely gone awry?
It’s worth considering the basic figures. The total cost of the Olympics will be around £9.3bn, of which the actual staging will cost about £2bn. Domestic sponsors are supplying around £690m, and the IOC’s “worldwide partners” £375m So about 11% of the money is coming from the sponsors.
Some of these don’t have any obvious ethical problems – one watch company is probably much like another and someone needs to provide the timing services; ditto for computer-makers and quite a few of the other sponsors.
A less glitzy, less OTT, simpler games could still celebrate the finest of human physical endeavour, but where, say, the food sponsor being a consortium of the world’s fruit and vegetable growers, with seasonal food on site from local providers. We could save a fortune on security guards by having them only to deal with actual security, not the wrong sorts of crisp packets or errant logos from rival corporations.
So imagine an Olympics with 5% less funding and 50% less hassle – Shelly Ann Fraser and Usain Bolt could still be poised on the same blocks, James “The Missile” Magnussen and Emily Seebohm ploughing down the same pool, Yelena Isinbayeva and Renaud Lavillenie still thrilling in the pole vault – but we wouldn’t have vast numbers of officials staying in London’s top hotels and clogging its streets with nearly 4,000 new BMWs and fewer pointless banners cluttering every available flat surface.
The sports venues might be less flash, but they would still provide everything the athletes and spectators might need without getting in the way with irritating commercialism or impersonal security. The venues could be further distributed around Britain to make more use of existing facilities – and make more sense. I mean really, beach volleyball in Horse Guards Parade is just silly – Brighton, or Southend-on-Sea or similar would have a lot more logic too it – and spread the crowds over a bigger area.
And while we’re imagining something more in line with the original Olympic ideals, we could stop moving the Games to a new city each time, with all of the destructive, expensive, regularly strategies that accompany them, and have a couple of fixed sites spread around the world – or maybe we could even just go back to the original inspiration and always hold them in Athens; a boost for the Greek economy.
But back in London, with much less sponsorship overall, we could avoid every surface of the Olympics city being plastered in over-Photoshopped, glowing images of fakely delighted staff and customers (yes McDonald’s, you’re really putting me off my lunch every time I walk through St Pancras station) – a much cleaner, simpler Games, whose focus is on the athletics. The way it should be.
This article is from Natalie Bennet’s blog for the Huffington Post