I’ve been to London twice in the last few days, once by car and once by train, and it’s prompted me to speculate what the real legacy of the awfully imminent Games might be.
Even on Sunday, when I was driving, it was pretty obvious from the ubiquitous Olympic (aka Zyl) lanes that traffic chaos in most of the capital is inevitable unless the majority of business people from out of town do what I’m planning to do and boycott the place entirely during the next month or so.
And whether public transport copes will equally depend on how many regular visitors, with little or no interest in the games themselves, stay away for the duration.
There are stories aplenty of unlet rooms in both private lodging houses and hotels, as a result of unrealistic greed in the setting of room rates. Only yesterday, I had confirmation from a friend of mine with a buy-to-let property in Weymouth (which they themselves are using, as sailing aficionados) that many of the town’s B&B’s and boarding houses are virtually empty as a result of the yachting fraternity descending.
So the short-term bonanza that many were hoping for may prove to be no more than a chimera brought on by the usual over-optimistic punditry.
Of course if you are going to organise the ‘greatest show on earth’, you’re bound to have to expect the disruption of many everyday services while it’s happening.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m more sports-mad than most and personally I’d much rather spend Â£9billion on the games than most of the things our government fritters away its (our) tax income on.
But if the short-term financial benefits of the Olympics are not the inevitable open-and-shut case that has been generally presented, what about the lasting legacy that the chattering classes keep banging on about?
As any of you who read this missive regularly will be aware, I carry no torch, Olympic or otherwise, for our political masters, so any pronouncements they make have to be taken with a large barrel of salt.
However, I do think it is entirely possible that there will be some positive long-term legacy as a result of 2012 – but it may be an unintended consequence, rather than any planned benefit.
This is nothing to do with the actual facilities that have been built to host the events. Judging by current prognostications, it is reasonably likely that the permanent structures (some, such as the hockey stadium, are due to be dismantled afterwards anyway) will find some beneficial use for their local communities. This is a lot more than many of our predecessors have managed: check out what’s become of Athens and Sydney, as prime examples.
The change which I foresee is a direct result of the short-term disruption to the capital’s services during the games.
As a result, many employees have put in place contingency plans for their staff to work remotely for much of the time that the games are on. With decent telephony and IT, this has become a realistic option for many in the last few years in any event, but still most major employers cling to the old ways, requiring their people to slog up and back to a town-centre office at the beginning and end of each day, to carry out their employment duties at a central hub.
Now, assuming that all those people have clear job descriptions, roles & responsibilities and measurable objectives (a big assumption admittedly), and if for a period of three or four weeks, it becomes apparent that all the work gets done just as efficiently without everyone doing the 9-to-5 commute, what is the next question that the powers that be are going to ask?
Do we really need this huge building in one of the most expensive cities on earth – apart from as a giant corporate phallic symbol?
Why not down-size to a few serviced meeting rooms – still centrally located – where everyone can come once a week for team meetings, bonding and all that other right-on stuff that the big corporates pay lip-service to, without having much of a clue how to actually make it work.
Meanwhile dispensing with a swathe of middle-management wastrels who will no longer have a meaningful role – not that many of them do now in my opinion, but they’re still drawing a salary. Presenteeism, it’s called, rather than absenteeism.
So the unintended consequences could be a rapid slimming down of the corporate bureaucracy – no bad thing – and once again, it will be the good old SME sector that will be expected to take up the slack, if not the slackers.
Or am I being unnecessarily and/or cynically optimistic? Love to hear your views.
Very many thanks to all those of you who have invested a small portion of your hard-earned lucre in my book, “The Unprincipled,” and the words of encouragement and support I’ve received from many quarters.
As with this missive, getting any sort of feedback – including contrary views and opinions – validates bothering to write it in the first place.
As Oscar Wilde put it, there’s only one thing worse than being talked about and that’s not being talked about.
David Croydon: 01844 238692 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org