Empty seats and the emptiness of the Olympic ideal in 2012:


The BBC vs Andrew Gilligan v The Slog

I hate to get all 1984 and thought-control about this empty seats furore, but the following comparison of what the numbers tell us about the enduring Olympic disgrace (going back several decades) of unused VIP seats should give everyone with an open mind and a soundly functioning brain serious concerns about what exactly the role of the BBC is these days. But most of all, it should make us examine just how the Olympic ideal has now been perverted by mindless Mammon

Although the general tenor of MSM comment today about bum-free seats is one of ‘why-oh-why-always-the-Olympics’, that’s bollocks: as a football fan who has attended most big occasions in that sport over fifty years, I can say without question that we are dealing with the anthropology of hierarchy here: every must-see event – be it the Wimbledon Men’s final or the World Cup Soccer Final – is always dominated by the rich, the alphas, and the celebs. So in that context, let’s just examine the three sources below in turn:

1. The BBC’s Q&A. ‘It is not just because of the Games’ sponsors failing to take up seats, Games organisers Locog and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) have said.’ Well Auntie, they would say that, wouldn’t they?

‘”No-one should run away with the idea that large numbers of seats will be empty throughout the Games,” said Lord Coe on Saturday’.

Well of course, Seb has been feeding us double-talk on all this since Day One: this is the man who said security had “not been compromised” by the abject failure of G4S to supply, as it were, security. (This morning, Slogger Ron Whitehand reports G4S employees spotted asleep on the job by soldiers in the compound, and several fence holes that haven’t been mended for days).

And of course, the BBC didn’t cross-question Lord Coe of the Blackout. They ‘had checked’ he said, “and the vast majority of no-shows at stadia weren’t sponsors”. Well they wouldn’t be would they, Seb? I mean, according to you, they only got 8% of the tickets.

But the BBC didn’t interrogate that piece of Soviet maths either…because it was ‘confirmed’ by the IOC:

‘8% of tickets have been made available to sponsors and 75% per cent to the public. Another 12% go to National Olympic Committees and 5% to the Olympic family – people like IOC officials and the media. The gaps are due to people from a range of those different groups not filling them, the IOC’s Mark Adams has said.’

I need to someone to explain to me here HTF Mr Adams knows that. What’s he done, checked the number of every empty seat against his vast files of numbered VIPs and ‘the public’, and then rung them while stuck in a Zil Lane to ask them why they aren’t there? How would he know an Olympic sibling from a Stratford oik? But as for the overall explanation, “fair play” seems like a reasonable response: 75% of the seats went to the public.

Until, that is, you read the Daily Telegraph’s version.

2. Andrew Gilligan in the Telegraph Gilligan is the greatest MSM bollocks deconstructor we have.

‘Lord Coe claimed last week that sponsors need special consideration because they have contributed a “mountainous amount of money” to the Games. In fact, only around 7 to 8 per cent of the money being spent on the London Olympics is coming from private sponsors. But they get a lot more than 7 per cent of the seats – around 13 per cent in total, 20 per cent if the Olympic Family are included, and up to 50 per cent at the most desirable events.’

This is terrific journalism: drilling into the figures to explode the spun woffle of Coe & IOC dissembling. It is essentially a qualitative examination of privilege and favouritism, and a succinct demonstration of how impossible it can be to tell Olympic family from sponsor from celeb from VIP. Indeed, Gilligan’s conclusion sounds all too familiar in the light of a decade of lies from the political and banking classes in our country:

‘The seats they get also tend to be the best ones, with the paying punters disproportionately confined to binocular-view accommodation in the rafters.No other major sporting event gives so low a proportion of its space to ordinary people. Yet at the same time no other sporting event takes so much from the taxpayer and ordinary people, or imposes so much inconvenience on them.’

Spot on. And now for meeeeee.

3. The Slog

I was in the middle of doing the sums from the BBCNews drivel when @OurOlympics drew my attention to the Torygraph piece. Some of what I was going to say has already been incorporated in the above, but anyway:

i. If BBCNews can let the Coe and IOC conkers pass as an ‘explanation’ for row upon row of naked seats, then we might as well give up on it as a serious news organisation – and I say that as one who has virulently opposed every underhand attempt to replace it with the Hunt-Murdoch-Sky axis of amorality.

ii. Just analyse some of those IOC numbers, and the way that when it suits them, they’re separated, and when it doesn’t, they somehow transmute into a miraculous blend of obfuscation. A classic phrase from Mark Adams: “Another 12% go to National Olympic Committees and 5% to the Olympic family”…ah right, so 1 in 5 tickets go to Yoooooou then? But then “75% of the tickets go to the general public”….er, but not many for the big occasions? Um, no.

iii. The FA Cup Final is sponsored, but whether sponsored or not, it has never been an even minor call on the public purse. (Wembley is the national stadium, not just the FA Cup final’s venue: so far, we’ve built just the one in the last 90 years). Staging the Olympics (something I opposed from the start) will cost this country upwards of £12 billion by the time all the bills are in and have been squirrelled away off balance sheet somewhere. Why are 1 in 5 tickets going to those who directly gain from the event, as opposed to those who directly paid for the overwhelming proportion of its cost? Why are the gainers in the Zil Lanes, while the payers have had Boris Johnson yelling at them to f**k off out of the Tube system for four weeks beforehand?

Because, my Slogger friends, it’s the way the world turns in the 21st Century: They Say, We Pay. They Fail, We Zirp. They Rig, We Lose.

But I will make one final point, because I think it deserves consideration. Maybe a lot of those seats are empty because – after the unbelievable brass neck of making us, the taxpayers, raffle for the tickets – those who wound up in Row 310 watching a Synchronised Callisthenics Qualifying Round found something more interesting to do nearer the time. Like, for example, walking with a loyal, honest and loving dog and two small kids across Balham Common.

I loved what the Olympics was. I detest what it has become. I despise the Boris Johnsons and Lord Greens and David Camerons and Danny Boyles and Tony Blairs and Lord Coes and Sarah Fergusons who use it to further their feeble careers or go there to be seen. I think professionalising the thing is the equivalent of privatising the Church of England: it isn’t commerce’s to privatise in the first place, and it is the antithesis of what it should stand for.

A bunch of psychopaths in Beijing bagging it for their totalitarian ends four years ago was bad enough. But London 2012 is fulfilling all my worst fears: it displays – already – all the self-awarded grandiloquence, politicisation, unaccountability, incompetence, lies, media bullying, brand control, unthinking celebration and creative mediocrity that have, together, become the defining features of Great Britain. We are become a post-Imperial foam of bubbly irrelevance tossed about on a sea of econo-fiscal disaster.

Still: crack open another bottle of the ’36 Olympische Krug Speziale, Herr Oberst.The Russians are only in Potsdam: they won’t be here for hours yet.