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

Time to make sure the games are what Mandela believed they could be

Related Topics

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.


React Now

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

Hydrographic Survey Manager

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Structural Engineer

Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Structural Engineer Job...

Generalist HR Administrator, Tunbridge Wells, Kent - £28,000.

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Generalist HR Administrator - Tunbri...

Head of IT (Not-for-Profit sector) - East Sussex

£45000 - £50000 per annum + 5 weeks holiday & benefits: Ashdown Group: Head of...

Day In a Page

Read Next
James Foley was captured in November 2012 by Isis militants  

Voices in Danger: Syria is the most dangerous country in the world for journalists

Anne Mortensen
Texas Gov. Rick Perry might try to run for president again in 2016  

Rick Perry could end up in jail for the rest of his life — so why does he look so smug?

David Usborne
Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape