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Monday, July 30, 2012

38 Billion For Fireworks

“The principle of spending money to be paid by posterity, under the name of funding, is but swindling futurity on a large scale.” — Thomas Jefferson’s letter to John Taylor — 1816

On Friday night I watched part of the opening ceremony of the 2012 Summer Olympic Games from London. I did not watch the entire TV coverage as I just could not tolerate the constant interruptions from commercials and the steady stream of chatter from Matt Lauer and Meredith Vieira.

Two events did, however, catch my attention. One was the portrayal of British history and the other was the lighting of the Olympic Torch. Let me begin with the torch lighting first.

While a spectacular event with the burning copper leaves being elevated above the athletes I could not but wonder what the costs for these games are to the British people and what return will they get.

One thing that everyone can agree on is that hosting the Olympics costs a lot and it's getting more expensive all the time. However, there was little research into the wider economic impact of the Olympics until Montreal emerged from the 1976 games with a gaping deficit of $1.2 billion, an amount local residents are still paying off through a supplementary tax on tobacco. Those games were funded almost entirely through public city funds, and the large amounts of money spent on infrastructure improvements and facilities construction were focused on a relatively small part of the city. Montreal 1976 is widely held up as the example not to follow, and it caused many cities to think twice about bidding for future games.

The first Olympics to turn a profit were the summer games held in Los Angeles in 1984. Since local citizens voted against public financing, those games also became the first to be almost entirely privately funded. Los Angeles marked the beginnings of commercialization of the games and the development of Olympic sponsorship deals.

In 1984, organizational and economic strategies were introduced, under the leadership of Peter Ueberroth, which meant the city could hold magnificent games that wouldn't bankrupt the city 1984 showed that it was actually worthwhile to hold an Olympics. The Los Angeles Olympic Games resulted in a surplus of nearly $250 million. This was subsequently used to support youth and sports activities throughout the United States. Coincidentally, he was born on the day on which the founder of the modern Olympic Games, Baron Pierre de Coubertin, died.

Since then, the summer Olympics have made money or at least broken even, according to a report by PricewaterhouseCoopers. Seoul in 1988 was left with a positive balance of $556 million, Atlanta in 1996 and Sydney in 2000 each broke even.

The 1992 games in Barcelona only came out around $3 million ahead, but are held up as a good example of secondary benefits that a financially viable Olympics can bring to a city or region. The Spanish city got a massive makeover for the games: its transportation and telecommunications systems were upgraded; it got new housing and retail centers that are still flourishing 12 years later.

Germany's 1972 Munich games were similar. Although it emerged with a deficit, after the games Munich had a new subway system and much of the city had been renovated and rebuilt after suffering devastation from the bombings in WWII. The games also brought an image of respectability to the Bavarian city that was once the providence of the Nazi Party. The games also exposed the need for increased security. If done the right way, the games can bring a city many long-term benefits, as they did in Munich.

Analysts break up Olympics economics for a city into three phases: pre-game, game and post-game. During the first phase, the city can benefit from tourism and a boost in construction activity. During the games, there are Olympic jobs to be had, revenues from tickets, sponsor shops, etc., not to mention the masses of tourists that descend on hotels, restaurants and other local businesses.

It's when it's all over that the problems come. The challenge is to use all that infrastructure effectively and learn how to deal with the massive, sudden drop-off. Massive Olympic sports arenas often remain un- or underused. Olympic villages fall into disrepair and become headaches for the city. Most cities simply do not need all the facilities.

Even Sydney — which many Australians tout as an economic success story — has had day-after problems. Its huge Olympic Park stands mostly silent and empty, too big to be sustained by regular sporting events alone. It will require an investment of at least $20 million dollars to turn it into the "living precinct" its designers envision.

Analysts say the evidence is just not clear on whether hosting the Olympics will bring a city an important or lasting economic boost. Thanks to new funding strategies and revenue sources, the dark high-deficit days of Montreal will most likely remain in the past. But whether the boost gained by temporary job creation and intense publicity is long-lasting is more difficult to ascertain, say experts.

The final bill for the 2012 Olympics could be ten times higher than the original estimate, according to an investigation. The predicted cost of the games when London won the bid in 2005 was £2.37 billion ($3.7209 billion). That figure has now spiraled to more than £12 billion ($18.84 billion) and could reach as much as £24 billion ($37.7 billion), the Sky Sports investigation claims. The Olympics public sector funding package, which covers the building of the venues, security and policing, was upped to around £9.3 billion ($14.6 billion) in 2007.

The London Mail reported on January 27, 2012 that cost of Olympics to spiral to £24bn... TEN TIMES higher than 2005 estimate (and is it any wonder when we're forking out £335,000 for a single sculpture):

“But the three-month investigation, which used figures from freedom of information requests and public documents, revealed extra spends that could drive up the cost to taxpayers by an extra £2.4bn.

These include anti-doping control officers, legacy schemes, tube drivers being paid extra to work and local Olympic torch relay programmes.

The news comes as it was today revealed that £335,000 of taxpayers' money has been spent on a single sculpture for the games.

'Jurassic Stones' by Richard Harris, described as a 'row of stones on sticks' by locals, has been slammed as a waste of money after it went on display in Weymouth, Dorset.

Several locals to the town, which is hosting the sailing events for the games, took to internet forums to criticise the artwork.

One said: 'Government debt has just gone through the one trillion pounds barrier.

'Obviously deeper cuts still have to be made. May I suggest that they start with the Arts Budget.


The investigators say the final figure could exceed its £24bn estimate as many requests for information have been ignored.

Requests for information did reveal that Newham Council, which is staging most of the Games, are providing £40m of taxpayers' money towards the Olympic Stadium and £700,000 on Olympic projects.

However the council's legal bill over the row between West Ham and Spurs FC over the stadium has cost almost £1m.

It has also forked out £29,400 on tickets. In December Amyas Morse, head of the National Audit Office warned about the real risk of the Games going over budget. ‘Not everything is rosy,' he said.

'The Government is confident that there is money available to meet known risks, but in my view, the likelihood that the Games can still be funded within the existing £9.3billion public sector funding package is so finely balanced that there is a real risk more money will be needed.’

However a spokesman for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport spokesman today hit back at the Sky investigation saying: 'The Public Sector Funding Package for the Games is £9.3bn and includes all additional security, defence and public transport provision for the Games.”

In a sidebar the Mail reports of the rising costs of security stating:

“In December the head of the National Audit Office warned of the risk of the government exceeding its Olympics budget of £9.3billion.

This figure includes the build of the venues and the £600million police and security budget. The government has just allocated an extra £41million (with a £7million contingency) from this budget to Locog to pay for the Opening Ceremony, which is set to cost £81million total.

Locog has also been allocated £271m to pay for venue security. The figure also includes £2.8m for Games Time Testing, £35m to convert the stadium after the event and £35m for tourism campaigns.

However Sky Sports investigators drew figures from freedom of information requests and public documents to reveal the cost to the public purse could be as much as £24bn. Highlights of the investigation include the £766m cost of the land used for the venues. Legacy programmes are also set to hit £826m, while the Olympic Park Legacy Company is set to cost £300m.

Then there's the tube drivers who receive extra pay during the games. 13,000 of them will each get £500 each bringing that bill to £6.5m. And what about the quangos? UK Sport received a £29m injection from Andy Burnham in 2008 because of the Olympic Games. Sport England has used some of a £22million handout to measure Legacy work.

Transport for London spent £2.5million taking 30,000 staff on a tour of the Olympic Park, according to the Sky investigation. While so-called 'London Ambassadors' - who will meet and greet tourists, will cost: £3.5million.

It was also revealed that councils across Britain have spent nearly £11.4m on torch relay and other Olympic themed events. But not all local authorities responded to requests for information so this figure could be higher. Local councils have spent £407,102 on tickets.”

Mediaite reports that CNN host Piers Morgan appeared on CNN with Brooke Baldwin last Thursday where he talked about his interview with Mitt and Ann Romney. Prior to playing clips of the interview, Morgan was asked about Romney’s comments to NBC where he wondered if London was up to the security challenges that the Olympics will pose. The comments drew sharp criticism from some members of the British press corps. But Morgan shocked when he defended Romney’s comments saying that the presumptive Republican nominee was “absolutely right” to question whether the U.K. was ready for the Olympics:

“It’s no secret over here that for the last three weeks the security around the Olympics has been a shambles,” said Morgan. “The outside firm they got in to run it has been all over the place – they didn’t have enough people and the army had to be drafted in. So, Mitt Romney was only saying exactly what has been happening.”

“He’s run an Olympics, so I thought he was perfectly entitled to be critical,” Morgan continued. He said that the English press jumped on him because they wanted Romney to “talk us up a bit,” but the substance of Romney’s critique was on point.

“I thought it was a bit of a fuss about nothing,” said Morgan. “He was just speaking the truth which can sometimes be rather unpalatable.”

The BBC reported arrests in critical mass bike ride near Olympic Park during the opening ceremonies:

More than 130 cyclists were arrested by police close to the Olympic Stadium on the opening night of the Games.

There were scuffles between police and cyclists on the outskirts of the Olympic Park at 22:30 BST on Friday.

People taking part in a monthly mass bike ride held in London said they were "kettled" near the stadium.

The police said cyclists ignored warnings and rode on Games Lanes ahead of the opening ceremony, but they did not respond to the kettling claim.

The Critical Mass ride is a pro-cycling event which takes place in London every month.

The Metropolitan Police said people were arrested under section 12 of the Public Order Act and for causing a public nuisance.

The force said two groups had been detained - the first on Bow Flyover and the other in Warton Road, Stratford.

The Met said up to 500 cyclists had gathered near Waterloo by 18:00 BST, five times the usual number that attended.

Police believed the demonstration "had the potential to cause serious disruption" and said officers used loud hailers and leaflets to explain the restrictions.”

The other thing that threw me was director Danny Boyles, tribute the Britain’s National Health Service during the opening pageant on British history.

Olympics opening ceremony London rehearsal

Regardless of futile attempts at liberal do-goodery, the goal on the left is always the same: constantly demanding undeserved praise for well-intentioned but failed acts of benevolent socialism. That sort of predictable imagery-before-reality mentality was on display during the London 2012 Summer Olympics opening ceremonies, where tribute was paid to the Brits' failing socialized National Health Service, affectionately known as the NHS.

Jeannie DeAngelis opines in American Thinker:

The producer of the extravaganza, London resident and Oscar-winning director Danny Boyle, decided to integrate a choreographed tribute to the NHS into the showy opening festivities because, according to Boyle, "universal health care is one of the core values of British society" and an "amazing thing to celebrate."

Sounding as if he was reading off Barack Obama's teleprompter circa 2015, Danny Boyle also said, "One of the reasons we put the NHS in the show is that everyone is aware of how important the NHS is to everybody in this country. We believe, as a nation, in universal health care. It doesn't matter how poor you are, how rich you are; you will get treated."

Besides Slumdog Millionaire and Trainspotting, Boyle directed the movie Shallow Grave — a title more befitting the musical tribute to a health care system renowned for human suffering and premature death. Bleeding-heart Boyle said this about the NHS: "It is something that is very dear to people's hearts."

The NHS may be "dear to people's hearts," all right, but probably not to the hearts of those who've experienced the horror of a loved one dying after being forced by bureaucrats to wait months for life-saving tests and treatment.

The whole eerie performance with nurses from Great Ormond Street Children's Hospital (GOSH) dressed in 1950s uniforms pushing around sick children bouncing around on oversized hospital beds was almost as sickening to watch as Barack Obama emerging from the Styrofoam Greek columns at INVESCO Field.

Let's face it: in general, liberals are so proud of their accomplishments that to market their fantasy, they'd gladly don intricate costumes and push stage props around London's Olympic Park. The Brits did it at the Olympic opening ceremonies, and Barack Obama, harbinger of a similarly well-intentioned health care system that is similarly likely to fail, does it symbolically every time he promises the same type of medical quality and access that the NHS has proven for over 60 years is impossible to physically or financially maintain.

In an October 13, 2011 Mail Online article entitled "People are dying from lack of care. The NHS must be held to account," "realist" Julia Manning, chief executive of 2020Health, wrote, "Of course we have much to be proud of in the NHS, but complacency and sentimentality have no place in an NHS in which people are dying for lack of care." Julia, how about dancing Florence Nightingales? Do they have a place?

The truth is that while the NHS was sentimentally praising itself in front of the world, what the organization failed to mention was the minor detail that GOSH was the place where a 13-year-old boy named Arvind Jain died of malnutrition after waiting eight months for a complacent health care system to schedule a routine 30-minute procedure to insert a feeding tube into his stomach. After the boy's death, the NHS Health Service parliamentary ombudsman deemed that Arvind was "left to die in agony after 'chaotic and substandard' care."


NHS detractors agree that although socialist-style health care may have laudable objectives, those objectives do not compensate for the appalling results. In 2009, it was reported that approximately 300 patients died each year of malnutrition in British hospital wards. The truth is that if the NHS wanted to commemorate an achievement, it should have been touting being the best at providing some of the worst health care on the planet.

Whether those merry dancing nurses realized it or not, they were representing a bankrupt system that relegates the very ill to waiting lists and denies drugs that are already paid for with the tax money of poor British citizens. What the nurses promoted was a system that has been known to refuse patients basic human needs like food and water, forces the sick to wait until it's too late for life-saving treatment, and effectively euthanizes 130,000 elderly people a year. Nonetheless, based on what the world witnessed at the Olympics opening ceremonies, the NHS accomplishes all those atrocities with a rollicking sense of national pride.

Like communism, socialism, Marxism, and the newest edition to the lineup, Obamanism, the British health care system obviously perceives itself as well-intentioned, which liberals worldwide obviously translate into ample justification for playing God with other people's lives.”

It just boggled my mind to see such a blatant display of left-wing politics displayed at the opening ceremonies of a so-called non-political event like the Olympics.

And then finally we have Jeannie DeAngelis blogging in American Thinker about the antics of our First Lady in Chief of Eating:

“When Michelle Obama jetted off to Britain to instruct the US Olympic Team on what they need to do to come home with the gold, it became apparent that America's first lady had found a way to party hearty, regardless of the pledge to forgo her annual Martha's Vineyard vacation.

Call me cynical, but just because Michelle Obama has well-cut biceps from doing 15-lb curls in the White House gym, trounced Ellen DeGeneres in a push-up contest, and kicked Jimmy Fallon's butt in a potato-sack race, that doesn't exactly qualify her to dole out pointers to seasoned Olympic athletes. But, then again, this is a woman who appointed herself Healthy Eating Czar while pretty much eating anything she damned well pleases.

For example, just prior to the Olympic opening ceremony at a reception held at Buckingham Palace, as "the Queen [of England] gave a welcoming speech" in front of 200 guests and dignitaries from all over the world, healthy eater Michelle enthusiastically wolfed down "Quail's egg canapés."

Meanwhile, back home Barack was concocting class warfare strategies while across the pond, resplendent in a $6,800 embroidered top and white pleated skirt from the J. Mendel 2013 collection, the first lady mingled with of 95 heads of state, including her "flexible" husband Barack's best Russian friend, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.”

So with the issue of security and final costs the people of the U.K. will have much to think about during the next two weeks. I wonder if their failing economy will be able to bear the final costs of the 2012 Olympic Games.

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