Yasmin Alibhai-Brown: The London Olympics are failing their racial promises

Time to make sure the games are what Mandela believed they could be
Click to follow
The Independent Online

Good for you, I say to Trevor Phillips and the Equality Commission who may investigate the London Olympics Organising Committee (Locog) because its leading lights are near-replicates of Seb Coe, the Tory chair. Our medal-winning athletes and players are multiracial but at the top, it is still a white man's game; jobs, contracts, positions of influence are going, of course, to the lucky boys' club.

The official website was down at the weekend – perhaps they are blacking or "womaning" up some of the smug faces. The only ill-fitting stranger let in appears to Dr Bari of the discredited Muslim Council of Britain, which tells you a lot. Oh, and Princess Anne. Think of it as the latest divvying up of fiefdoms in our long history, courtiers, Dukes and Barons grabbing assets. The Cavaliers back, feathers and all.

What makes it unconscionable is that our capital was sold and won on "diversity" by Ken Livingstone and Tessa Jowell – who really did mean it. But that promise has been cynically archived. Partly because Conservatives are now running the show and partly because few have called the chiefs to account, until now. They didn't really mean any of it – surely only fools were taken in?

Then the Tories joined in the clappy chorus singing hymns to London's all-sorts. Why, even Michael Howard joined in, he who gave us the campaign poster "It is not Racist to Impose Limits on Immigration". This same politician waxed lyrical in 2004: "Over 300 languages spoken by 200 communities here – London would be able to welcome athletes like no other city on earth. Every athlete would feel an element of their own home touching them in London." Feeling bilious? Come join me around the bucket.

Perfidious Albion does it again, and again and again, deceitfully undertakes whatever she needs to on behalf of her avaricious sons and then, without a beat or a flash of contrition, bins the pledges and runs with the winnings. If it wasn't so self-important and unprincipled itself, the Olympic Committee might have said something, asked why the contents are not delivering what the label clearly describes, indeed brandishes.

Walk around the four host boroughs: Newham, Hackney, Waltham Forest and Greenwich. Sit in cheap old cafés and talk to ordinary people, men and women of all races who have never seen much of glittering, billionaire London. Bit by bit, and irreversibly, like skin, the shine is fading, worry lines have appeared, hope turned sallow. Some are angry, most resigned and fatalistic. That's Blighty for you.

In our country, citizens either accept that the born-to-rule always will or, even more alarmingly, condemn as unpatriotic those of us who tirelessly object to privilege passed on from father to son. Cue bloggers who will fly into intemperate, filthy rages and call for my ungrateful head. The ranters reveal their own pathetic insecurities. Inexplicably, the most raucous upholders of the status quo are people who have everything to gain if we had real equality. That's Blighty for you.

Backing the EHRC are Operation Black Vote, whose head, Simon Woolley, warned last spring that black and Asian businesses were not getting a look-in as contracts were being handed out by Coe and co. Gary Nunn of the gay campaign group Stonewall says there is very little evidence of "real new work or sporting opportunities for disabled people, black people and gay people".

Last month, Locog once again issued meaningless gobbledygook to reassure sceptics. Their head of diversity, Stephen Frost, who worked for Stonewall, said equality and diversity would be "championed". Yeah, right.

Actually, I exaggerate. Enthusiastically working for one thriving sector of the forthcoming games is a real cross-section of our Metropolis. The army of volunteers welcomes "ethnics" and other unfortunates through the back door, lackeys proud to serve their nation for nothing. That, says Locog, shows how the organisation is "fully reflective of London".

Then there are the sports stars of all backgrounds, many of them using talent and prowess to prove themselves in an unfair society. (I don't believe many Eton boys get these medals.) A number of the medallists are now knights and dames of the realm. They could embarrass Locog by speaking out. Ain't heard a squeak of dissent from them. Too busy going to gala events, I guess, or delivering feel-good messages for advertisers.

Time to wake up, make sure that the games are what Nelson Mandela believed they could be when he backed our bid: "There is no city like London, wonderfully diverse and open". So, Lord Coe, what happened next? Please explain and in detail.