Letters: Olympic waste of public money

These letters appear in the print edition of The Independent, 16 July, 2013

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I cannot possibly be the only person in this country who, right from the start, viewed the notion of the Olympic stadium providing a permanent venue for athletics as complete and utter nonsense (“After the gold rush”, 15 July).

Whether or not its chief proponent, Lord Coe, actually believed it, or felt he had to advocate it to swing the necessary IOC votes, is something we perhaps ought to be asking now after the colossal waste of public money involved in constructing the stadium in such a way that it couldn’t be cheaply converted for what was always going to be its ultimate use as a football stadium.

The organisers of the Commonwealth Games in Manchester got it absolutely right as regards what is now the Etihad stadium. It was blindingly obvious to anyone with half a brain that the only viable use for the Olympic stadium post-2012 was as a football stadium for the local team, West Ham United.

Had that been openly acknowledged from the start, and all planning based on that, then we would have been spared all the cant and hypocrisy spouted by just about everyone involved with a  process the outcome of which, at great cost all round, mostly to the public purse, is (surprise, surprise!) that West Ham are due to move, in 2016, into a dog’s breakfast of a football stadium. It could have been far better suited to its ultimate purpose had reality been granted the tiniest look-in when the bid was submitted.

Antony Randle, London NW10

Walk the strait and narrow, or it just isn’t cricket

As a club cricketer I always walked, in the knowledge that at least 90 per cent of our opponents also did so. Had I known that they didn’t (and Australians – indeed, the vast majority or professional cricketers - don’t walk), I would not have walked.

Incidentally, I have not noticed any outcry about Brad Haddin not walking on what proved to be the last ball of the Test, although it was clear that he, like Stuart Broad, knew he had hit the ball.

I don’t see the moral difference. Are we saying that a player should walk off a thick edge but not a thin nick? In other words, that morality depends on whether you think you can get away with it!

Mike Cannell, Saffron Walden, Essex

Stuart Broad is given not out when everyone except the umpire knows he is out. Broad stands his ground and makes another 28 runs. England win by 14. Perhaps not worth a Murray knighthood but surely a CBE. What an admirable hero.

Gerald Sinstadt, Tittensor, Staffordshire

School dinner for every child?

There are a number of issues that have caused me to sigh heavily when reading about Michael Gove’s initiative to supply all primary school children with a free school dinner.

I am a primary school teacher of 14 years and a mother of two well adjusted, state-educated children who are adults now. I believe feeding children a good, healthy, nourishing hot meal in the middle of the day is a brilliant idea for children from poor socio-economic backgrounds to ease the burden of cost for low-income households, but this is already implemented across England and Wales on a means-tested basis. So, what is the rationale behind insisting that all primary aged children receive a free school meal?

What a glaringly obvious waste of taxpayers’ money.

I have worked with children for long enough to know that a large number of children would rather have a packed lunch prepared by their own parent than eat a school lunch; many parents are capable enough of preparing a nutritious packed lunch for their children. I suspect this is a diversionary tactic by the Government to cool down the criticism of Mr Gove’s insulting, arrogant and opinionated views on education.

I would like to see members of Parliament treat their voters with respect instead of assuming that we are all incapable of looking after our children without their advice.

Ruth Robinson, Reading

The Conservative Party has continually argued that the nation’s health is the responsibility of individuals, refusing to support measures aimed at improved regulation of the food industry, providing healthier food and as a consequence improving the nation’s health.

Mr Gove’s acceptance of the £1bn annual bill for free school meals is a de facto recognition that their policy is an abject failure. Isn’t it now time for the Government to recognise this and take action to do something about the cause of unhealthy lifestyles and poor nutrition? Otherwise this will become just another example where the taxpayer is meeting the costs of the failure of the Government to take action that might involve upsetting the food industry.

Nigel Hunt, Harrogate, North Yorkshire

Ulster trapped in the past

Every year at this time we are treated to appalling spectacles of violence on the streets of Northern Ireland as the annual Orange thugfest takes place.

It is time to put a stop to the Orange marches, which, despite what the organisers claim, are deliberately aimed at provoking a reaction from Catholic communities. It is akin to a child poking a stick into a hornets’ nest and then running screaming to mummy when it gets stung.

Catholic/Protestant, Protestant/Catholic – they are as bad as each other. The people of Northern Ireland need to wake up to the fact that there can be no lasting peace until they stop dwelling on wrongs done to, and by, their forefathers generations ago and start concentrating on creating a safe future for their children and grandchildren.

To put it simply, they need to grow up.

Robert Readman, Bournemouth, Dorset

Who would want an EU career?

I am glad that a group of British MPs has woken up to the problem of under-representation of British staff in bodies such as the EU Commission. But they fail to see the implications.

They fail to see that twice as many French people work for the EU as British people – not because of language (both English and French are working languages of the EU) but because the French realise that their best national interests are served by full participation in all EU institutions, while the British do not.

What other country would fill the European Parliament with members of a party that doesn’t think the Parliament should exist? What other leader of a country would spend his time at a dinner of EU leaders waving some pamphlet he dislikes about “Mr and Mrs MEP” under their noses, instead of trying to make the serious contribution to debate about policy that other countries would like the UK to make?

Second, why should anyone want a career in the EU when there is a serious threat of their country pulling out of the organisation after 2017?

If the UK wants people to work for the EU institutions, why does it spend its time trying to undermine their salaries and working conditions and complaining (using false statistics) about a bloated, pampered workforce of eurocrats?

The best way for the Government to get more British people working for the EU is to set an example of constructive participation in the EU itself. Language has nothing to do with it.

Dr Mark Corner, University of Brussels

Mystical prophet of the internet

In speaking of prophets of the internet (letters, 9 July), surely some mention should be made of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, who coined the word “noosphere” for the web of consciousness he envisaged enveloping the world in a new evolutionary phase, just as the biosphere had before it.

This mystical palaeontologist foresaw, if not the technicalities, at least the challenges to the human spirit in the 20th century as humanity entered a new phase: the process of “noogenesis” would bring about “the closer association of the grains of thought; the synthesis of individuals and nations” binding personalities together “in an atmosphere of active sympathy”. Though his works were suppressed by the Holy Office (the Inquistion) and published posthumously, it sounds like a good description of the potentialities of cyberspace to me.

Dominic Kirkham, Manchester

The danger of food banks

Food banks have been part of the landscape in Canada for at least 25 years. I refuse to donate to them because I think their existence has allowed the government to shirk its responsibility to ensure everyone has food security.

Be careful in how you approach this. Although in the short term people may be hurt if you resist the guilty feeling of not helping, ultimately if you support food banks you are letting your government off the hook. Don’t make the same mistake as us.

Jane McCall, Delta, British Columbia, Canada

Out of court

Auriol Earle (letter, 13 July) argues for a tennis court in every school. The idea of Michael Gove being slightly interested in school sport will remain a pipe dream for as long as Ofsted shows no interest in extracurricular activities. Headteachers, under pressure to get an “outstanding” Ofsted report, are now choosing to shed the extracurricular to have that all-important focus on classroom teaching.

Nick Patterson, Saffron Walden, Essex

‘Acceptable’ litter

Can I add another littering crime to Deborah Ross’s excellent list (12 July)?  It’s what my partner refers to as “somebody starting a bin”. One litterer leaves an empty can on a wall or discards a bag of litter in a corner. Other litterers are then drawn to discard their own rubbish alongside it, as if the initial littering has made it acceptable. Or maybe it’s just another instance of our current pop-up craze?

Joanne Henson, Richmond, Surrey


It’s typical of the power of the often vacuous “new media” that one of its exponents, Katie Hopkins (“If it makes me a cow...” 13 July), should warrant a two-page spread just because she says outrageous things. Anyone can say something outrageous, and more convincingly than this absurd woman. So why did you bother? Ex nihilo nihil – “Out of nothing, nothing can emerge”. I thought I’d better translate it for her.

Nigel Jarrett, Chepstow, Monmouthshire

Time for change

Surely it is time that actress Tuppence Middleton (Radar, 13 July) got together with rugby player Leigh Halfpenny.

Andrew Belsey, Whitstable, Kent