Simon Kelner: Should tax breaks be bolted on to an Olympic deal?

Kelner's view

Share

I know it's only a week away, and I know that all around us are the signs that the Olympics are coming, but after such a prolonged, over-wrought build-up, it seems almost hard to believe that soon our attention will be diverted from official incompetence towards athletic excellence.

At which point, those of us who are, at best, equivocal about the arrival of the world's biggest corporate sporting circus in town would do well to keep schtum. However, there's still time for me to draw your attention to a largely unreported aspect of London 2012 that may interest you. Here's a question for you: What do the Cayman Islands have in common with Stratford, east London? No, it's not the beaches, climate or stars who have houses there. It's the fact that they are both tax havens. During July and August, any internationally-domiciled company or individual will not be taxed on their Olympic earnings. So, whether it's Visa, who have a monopoly on ticketing arrangements, or Usain Bolt, inset, who will trouser a fortune if he wins the 100 metres, the Exchequer won't see a penny of it. It is part of the price, I'm afraid, of winning the right to host the Olympics. The IOC insist on these tax breaks, and without them they'd just take the Games to another city. Haven't we heard a similar story before? Oh yes, haven't the bankers always said that unless we continue to have virtually no regulation in the City of London, the big financial institutions will just up sticks and go elsewhere. Some would call it a quid pro quo – the Olympics have brought jobs and a cash boost and the City creates a significant amount of employment.

Others might call it blackmail. A campaign has been pursued by the pressure group 38 Degrees against the Olympic tax breaks and they have already achieved a notable success. McDonald's, fresh from the bad publicity surrounding Chip-gate, has waived its rights to the tax holiday. It's not a huge sacrifice – it says revenue from sales of the Games will constitute only 0.1 per cent of its annual UK sales – but it is important in that it puts the pressure on other corporate sponsors to do the same (Coca-Cola has since followed suit). A report from Ethical Consumer estimates that the total sum lost to the Exchequer by these exemptions is £600m, a not inconsiderable amount and something to offset the £11bn cost of staging the Games. Of course, without the millions pumped in by sponsors, this great sporting jamboree probably couldn't take place and certainly not on the scale we will see.

I find it hard to get behind the Olympics at this stage: all I see is travel disruption, an official gravy train and vast amounts of money disappearing into a corporate hell hole. I am sure that when the world's best athletes start running and cycling, throwing and rowing, diving and jumping, and, especially, playing table tennis, I'll feel differently. And – who knows? – it may even be sunny then.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

£37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

£25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

£16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Labour's Jeremy Corbyn arrives to take part in a Labour party leadership final debate, at the Sage in Gateshead, England, Thursday, Sept. 3  

Jeremy Corbyn is here to stay and the Labour Party is never going to look the same again

Andrew Grice
Serena Williams  

As Stella Creasy and Serena Williams know, a woman's achievements are still judged on appearance

Holly Baxter
Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones