Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Olympic Gold

It seems likely that, in The Guinness Book of World Cock-ups, the Millennium Dome will have to yield pride of place to the new Olympic Stadium in London's garden spot, Stratford, E 15.
Tessa Jowell, the Minister of Culture, in announcing with some pride that the project was now vying for a spot as the worst job of quantity surveying the world had ever seen, said that on the opening day we would all be proud of the achievement.
I somehow doubt it.
Predicting a while back that the job would involve further cost overruns, I hate to say I told you so, but, I told you so. And her announcement that this was now the final figure, and I forget for the moment how many billion we're at now, is certain government-speak for "it'll be a lot more before it's over."
Over here, the mayor of Paris, who is viewing the fiasco through a high powered telescope mounted atop Sacre Coeur, must be thanking his lucky etoiles that he didn't get the job.
The French are immensely tolerant of sleaze and backhanding but far less so of sheer incompetence. Ministers here always have a sneaking suspicion that all the tumbrils and guillotines were not dismantled after the revolution, merely tucked away for use in any emergency, such as the government deciding to spend the taxpayers money on an obviously cockamanie scheme - such as an Olympic stadium.
Around the globe are scattered the decaying remnants of many similar schemes, none of which have proved to be of any value to the community after the sweaty athletes have left. Quite what value the structure in the East End's swamp land will have for the benighted citizens whose funds have paid for it, remains to be seen.
The government's patronage of the arts is indisputable. After all, Tony Blair took time off from his busy schedule denying things, to patronise the theatre. He went to see that well known artwork, The Sound of Music. And the Minister for Culture, in the same breath as telling the populace just how much for the new stadium she was going to get into their knickers for by raiding their piggy banks (actually, she didn't say that for fear of alienating the Muslim community), quietly decreased the grant to the British Library by 7%.
But perhaps such misjudgements are to be expected from the Honourable Minister. After all, it was she who failed to understand the mortgage agreement that she signed with her former husband, who is now attempting to explain matters to an Italian court.



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