What\’s in a name?

It\’s very rare these days for a story to appear and disappear, without leaving a digital trail somewhere on the internet.

Last Thursday (14 June 2007), London\’s three evening papers picked up the same story: that the International Olympic Committee Co-ordination Commission (the group of IOC members sent over to check on London\’s progress in preparing for the 2012 Games) had said that they were uncomfortable with the Olympic Delivery Authority\’s name.

Why? Because the bulk of the ODA\’s £9bn budget is now to be spent on cleaning up land and putting infrastructure into East London\’s Lea Valley, rather than on erecting Olympic venues. The panjandrums of the IOC are nothing of not assiduous in defending the value of their brand, and they were reported to be unhappy with the association of the \’O-word\’ with such extensive public spending (and some of the unavoidable but unpleasant side-effects of development, like displacement of businesses and residents).

The story had a ring of truth, however odd it might seem at first glance. The IOC is very keen to emphasise that the Olympic Games are self-funding (from ticketing, sponsorship and merchandising revenues). Their view is that, if a city has to build new facilities to accommodate the Games, then that is their business, and a demonstration of the catalytic effect that the whole circus can have on nations that host it.

But you can\’t have it both ways. It is a truth insufficiently acknowledged that \’regeneration\’ is not the one way street that its shiny name implies. Regeneration displaces, and regeneration costs. The Olympics have made the Government do what they would never have done otherwise: make the heavy investment needed to turn round one of the poorest areas in the UK. The IOC should be proud to be associated with this investment, and should take its share of the knocks too.

The story had vanished by Thursday night. Perhaps it was untrue. Or perhaps it was seen as too damaging to the brand…

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