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?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

VB.Net Developer - £40k - Surrey - WANTED ASAP

£35000 - £40000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: .Mid Level V...

Digitakl Business Analyst, Slough

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Competitive Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Dig...

Mechanical Estimator: Nuclear Energy - Sellafield

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Car, Medical, Fuel + More!: Progressive Recruitmen...

Dynamics NAV Techno-Functional Consultant

£50000 - £60000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: An absolutely o...

Day In a Page

Read Next
'Our media are suffering a new experience: not fear of being called anti-Semitic'  

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk
David Cameron (pictured) can't steal back my party's vote that easily, says Nigel Farage  

Cameron’s benefits pledge is designed to lure back Ukip voters. He’ll have to try harder

Nigel Farage
Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices