Olympic Oil

With BP and the Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill back in the news as the trial opens in New Orleans to judge who was responsible for the worst offshore oil spill in US history, it appears that it is not only me that has been wondering about the legitimisation of all these, frankly dubious, companies by the Olympics. There have been protests, says The Guardian, over the suitability of the oil company to be a major sponsor of London 2012:

Olympics organisers have come under attack from environmentalists, artists, indigenous people’s leaders and development groups over the position of BP as an official partner in the games.

There has been subvertising and everything!

Every time I see one of those adverts, I think “that is so wrong”. Jessica Ennis running through the sands – fuelled not by BP but by her breakfast. But what’s that scary green bubble following her like the white ball in The Prisoner? Just BP reminding us that there’s nothing like an oil company to mess up a good beach.

And if that’s not bad enough, in this ad the hurdler doesn’t just need a BP powered Olympic car – he actually is the car! He has an engine for a heart and BP oil in his veins. Fantastic.

Rent generation

Apparently, landlords are planning to kick out existing tenants in order to quadruple rent on properties during the Olympic period. This is an interesting dimension of the Olympic legacy. According to Seb Coe last year, the Olympic village will become 1379 affordable homes

when beds for athletes become essential new homes for Londoners after the Games, creating a vibrant new neighbourhood on the doorstep of the Olympic Park

People looking out from Westfield Shopping Centre

In economic terms, it is worth reflecting that research has shown there to be both winners and losers in previous Olympiads. As Preuss observes:

It is not surprising that many negative effects have the greatest impact on the poor

Preuss goes to observe that, despite indications to the contrary, there are some hidden impacts resulting from the redevelopment of urban areas during the Olympics. He says that in the past it has appeared that host cities have improved public space for everyone by installing pedestrian precincts or public parks

but the precincts contain shops for the affluent and the parks host fee-paying events.

You can think about all this as you admire the construction of the Olympic Park from the viewing gallery on the third floor of the sparkly new John Lewis store in Westfield Shopping Centre. But for the moment, it looks like the Olympics is all about rent generation rather than regeneration.

It’s a wrap! Or is it…?


Games sustainability watchdog, Meredith Alexander, has quit her post over Dow Chemical’s controversial sponsorship of the Olympics. Dow Chemical took over Union Carbide, the company responsible for the Bhopal disaster in 1984, but the official 2012 Olympics line is that they have nothing to do with that tragedy, since all liabilities had already been settled.  However, campaigners argue that people continue to be affected by what was the world’s worst industrial accident, with toxic waste still leaking into the local area’s water supplies.

Dow Chemical is a global Olympic sponsor and is funding the ‘wrap” that will surround the Olympic Stadium. In December last year, the company agreed to abandon plans to brand the wrap with its logo for test periods before the games.

However, Meredith Alexander argued on BBC 5 Live that the wrap gave the company false legitmacy.

Now, are there any other companies that are being falsely legitimised by the Olympics, I wonder…?