Those empty seats

Who’s paying?

We are.

Olympic Village London 2012

Host cities routinely underestimate the costs and overstate the benefits of the Games. London is no exception. The city’s bid proclaimed: “Every sector of the economy will benefit from the staging of the Olympic Games.” [Sales have dropped in London because of the Olympic traffic blockages.] Originally slated to cost about £2.4bn, Olympic costs jumped to £9.3bn by 2007. The National Audit Office noted that public-sector funding has almost tripled, while private-sector contributions dwindled to less than 2%. Recently, the House of Commons’ public accounts committee revealed costs were “heading for around £11bn”. Meanwhile, Olympics critic Julian Cheyne of Games Monitor calculates costs at £13bn. A Sky Sports investigation included public transport upgrade costs, catapulting the five-ring price tag to £24bn.

What does the Sports Editor of the Guardian say?

So far while dealing with empty seats Sebastian Coe has had the air of a patient headmaster fending off a series of precociously misguided questions from the lower sixth. It isn’t hard to see what he really wants to say. Perhaps what he wants to shout out, standing at his lectern biting his tongue, is: “This is simply the way it is. Those seats have been paid for by sponsors, or allocated to administrative VIPs. They are the property not of the public, but of assorted structures that effectively own this self-supporting beano.”

Self-supporting? Not exactly. The International Olympics Committee is rather more than self-supporting, but we the taxpayers – not the sponsors or the IOC “family” – are the people paying for the London Games.

Overall the IOC makes around $750m a year, which is a low-end estimation. It is not possible to gain a more accurate figure, because information about the IOC and its revenue is not publicly accessible. The IOC claim it only gets 8% of this total, with the rest going to the National Organising Committees and other organisations involved in the Games, but there is no independent auditing to prove this percentage. This means it makes a minimum of $60m, which does not include their own revenues from the sale of Olympic products.

The only people who benefit from these huge sums are not the athletes, not the host countries (the IOC’s contract specifies they pay no tax on any on their revenue), not most IOC employees. Just the people at the very top of the IOC. Like Seb Coe.

What would Gore Vidal say?

Gore Vidal: The genius of our ruling class is that it has kept a majority of the people from ever questioning the inequity of a system where most people drudge along paying heavy taxes for which they get nothing in return.

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Filed under Olympics, Tax Avoidance

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