The Last Word: Olympics are a big fat myth, so lying to athletics is the least of our shame

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The Independent Online

The bigger the lie, the fewer people believe it. That is a truth the Olympic Park Legacy Company should console themselves with, if and when they decide to allow Tottenham to move in and rip up the running track after three weeks' employment at next year's Games.

Certainly they needn't take Alan Pascoe's screeching too much to heart. "We are just about to renege on the biggest international promise in sport we've ever made," said the garlanded hurdler who was vice-chairman of London's bid team. True in one sense, false in another sense, extremely naïve in every other sense.

To deal with the last first. Did anyone seriously think they would ever hand over the keys to a stadium which cost more than £500m to athletics? Yes, at the outset they might have "promised" to turn the 80,000 arena into a 25,000-seater permanent home for track and field. And then put a guarantee in the building contract that it must "stay as a usable athletics track available for competition and training at any time".

Yet none of that is worth the legal paper it was written on. If you suspected it was, then please look up into the sky and count the cuckoos on the clouds. You probably also fell for all that Lord Coe "this is for the children" guff when London won the bid six years ago.

As it is, this wasn't "the biggest international promise we've ever made". In fact, compared to the promise of investment in sport, of hosting this Olympics to ensure our kids were inspired into healthy sporting action, the athletics track promise seems a harmless white lie. Not to say it shouldn't provoke deep annoyance, if not rabid anger. It should. And that's because it so neatly sums up the shameless falsehood at the heart of London 2012. Big business will clean up; the little people will be cleaned out.

Of course, Tottenham and West Ham are big business. They might claim to be a focal point of their community, but essentially their existence is about profit and loss. They look at a project which will save them millions; they spot a route to the Lottery gold they never dared believe could be theirs. It is estimated that Spurs could rake in more than £400m out of taking over the Olympic Stadium. Whichever way you look at it, that, in part, would have to come from the Lottery. You know, that fund which was set up to help "good causes".

The equation is as simple as it is scandalous. Funding for grass-roots sports has actually fallen by estimates of more than 20 per cent since the bid was won. Where has it gone? Undoubtedly some of it into staging the Games. Into the bank accounts of building firms, contractors, event specialists, PR consultancies and now, very soon, to a professional football club. How gratifying in the years to come it will be for a mini-rugby club in Gwent to realise the funds denied them for balls, kit and cones will have helped Spurs purchase a new winger, and pay him £200,000 a week.

Remember that when they talk of "the legacy". See the absurdity of Coe's emotive claims of all those children, sitting on their couches, watching the heroes glide to glory. Granted, just as Coe crooned, they may well be motivated to venture outside and run for their lives. But run where? On to the school fields which have already been sold off to developers who have no money to develop any more? Into the sports halls starved of facilities? What use will Tottenham's stadium be to them, or for that matter the hockey centre, the aquatics centre, the handball arena? The same as all of the rest of the white elephants which litter the former host cities. These monuments to Olympic excess are a global disgrace. No wonder Jacques Rogge, the IOC president, is so quick to wash his hands over this latest multi-use stadium farce. "Don't expect the IOC to intervene in an issue where we are not responsible," he said last week.

But with their ridiculous demands they are responsible. In the desperate bartering for votes, the bid team felt forced to tell the IOC what they wanted to hear about the stadiums. The reality is multi-use stadia simply do not work. They are good for the Olympics, nothing else. Show one of them which flourished after the three-week jamboree. Or even survived with any sort of dignity.

The birdcage in Beijing? In the three years since it stunned the globe with its architectural beauty, this particular 80,000 arena has hosted an opera, the Italian version of the Community Shield, a friendly between Birmingham City and Beijing Guan – and not much else. Still, it could be worse. It could be in Athens. Twenty one of the 22 venues built for the 2004 Olympics are in disuse. No team plays at the main stadium. But Bon Jovi does. The band will be there in July. And when "Livin' on a Prayer" rocks out, the irony will abound.

But the Olympics are long gone and nobody from the IOC will be embarrassed. Just as they won't be when Spurs or West Ham land the spoils of their arrogance. The Greeks' fault, London's fault; never that of the IOC. The Olympics are a big fat myth and because of that, the breaking of one more promise is irrelevant. Britain should have been embarrassed when it won, not now it tries to make the best of it. Lying to athletics should be the very least of our shame.

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