Letters: Olympics peddle a 'green and pleasant' illusion


Wednesday 13 June 2012 20:22 BST

In creating his pastiche of a "green and pleasant" countryside as part of the opening ceremony for the London Olympics, is Danny Boyle aware that most of the real thing is pretty lifeless?

In the last four decades, intensive farm management funded by the EU and supported by successive UK governments has halved the numbers of once typical farmland birds such as yellowhammers, depleted enormously the formerly vibrant populations of invertebrates such as butterflies, grubbed out thousands of miles of hedgerow, and annihilated at least 90 per cent of flower-rich meadows.

There are certainly plenty of green fields about the place, mostly super-green thanks to copious quantities of fertiliser and a lack of plants other than fast-growing ryegrass and clover.

A large proportion of Britain's countryside is seriously damaged; so let's hope Boyle doesn't get carried away with some superficial idea that because it looks the right colour – green – all must be well. It isn't.

Dr Malcolm Smith

Colwyn Bay, Conwy

I read with great anxiety that the opening ceremony at London 2012 will involve live animals, including cows, sheep and chickens. It is hard to imagine a more inappropriate setting for animals than amid the thunderous crowds of such a ceremony.

Sheep are particularly fearful of loud noises, and farmers have reported that they may spontaneously abort during firework displays. In 2008, the noise of a hot air balloon killed 300 chickens on a Herefordshire farm.

Under the Animal Welfare Act 2006, it is an offence to cause physical or mental suffering, "where this is unnecessary and the person knew or could be expected to know that an animal would suffer as a result".

The 1988 Seoul ceremony was seriously tarnished by doves being burnt to death in the Olympic flame. Is London prepared to be seen in an equally negative light?

Kate Fowler

Head of Campaigns, Animal Aid, Tonbridge, Kent

In an article on 5 June about the Olympic Torch Relay you are critical of some of the people that have been chosen to carry the flame by London 2012 sponsors. Ninety per cent of the 8,000 torchbearer places were made available to the public through a number of channels, including the four public nomination campaigns run by LOCOG, Coke, Lloyds TSB and Samsung. The rights packages for some partners include a small number of torchbearer places that had to be filled through internal campaigns. The same torchbearer selection criteria applied across the whole relay and the people selected to carry the flame have achieved their personal best and/or have made a contribution to their community.

The staging of the Olympic Games is a huge undertaking and we couldn't do it without the support from our commercial partners. Without their backing, the full cost of the Games would have to be met from the public purse.

Paul Deighton

Chief Executive, LOCOG, London E14

Danny Boyle's vision of an idyllic rural England lacks only one feature: the desecrating scar of HS2, so beloved of our visionary politicians.

John Oakley

Kenilworth, Warwickshire

Commercial firms'stranglehold on the world's water

Michael McCarthy reports (7 June) that the Institute of Civil Engineers has urged the metering of water as an essential step in coping with a growing water crisis in this country. The ICE may well be right that metering can improve the situation, although some would protest that it leads to higher water bills and an inequitable financial burden on families with young children.

What does not feature in the ICE report is any appraisal of the global crisis facing peoples under water-stress conditions. I refer to the current assumption that it is OK to regard water as a commercial commodity which can be bought and sold and traded on the international market.

Despite the protests from those who continue to affirm that water is a common good and not a saleable commodity, the dominant water giants, with the connivance of the World Trade Organisation, continue to increase their stranglehold on this vital resource around the world. The global privatisation of water may prove to be the greatest threat to world peace in the 21st century. While we in Britain fret over temporary hose pipe bans, we should be equally uneasy about the millions of people with no access to clean water or sanitation in the so-called developing world.

If ever there were a case for a world authority with powers to limit the absolute hegemony of the water giants and to move towards a deprivatised future for world water, it is part of the task facing the Rio+20 nations this month.

Frank Campbell


This is a chance for joined-up thinking by the electricity and water suppliers. The heavy reliance by this Government on windpower and the requirement that electrical consumers pay for unused wind-produced energy, means that there is a growing requirement for pump storage/generation systems such as Dinorwig and Ben Cruachan.

Every reservoir should now be surveyed and assessed for this capability. Where possible any new reservoir project should have the dual capacity of water supply and electricity generation.

Maynard Hall

Wigton, Cumbria

No more rewards for failure

Executive remuneration is once more in the spotlight ("Top Sony bosses in bonus surrender", 7 June), with seven Sony executives, including the chairman and president, "giving up" their performance-based bonus pay.

I would argue that if a business fails to hit its targets, then the executives aren't as such "giving up" pay, but rather not being rewarded for failure.

If all levels of remuneration were fair, transparent, and aligned to performance, we would be seeing fewer headlines like this, and a more realistic approach to this continuing global debate.

Businesses need to go beyond the "pay at risk" approach and aim for a more holistic and ethical standard, which would see executive pay schemes appropriately linked to the long-term strategic objectives and performance goals of the organisation. Shareholders will not object to bonuses awarded in a transparent way for stretching targets that have been fully discussed in advance.

This is simply sound management accounting principles, which should be embedded at the heart of every organisation.

Charles Tilley

Chief Executive, Chartered Institute of Management Accountants, London SW1

A fair wage for prisoners

You report (5 June) that the Justice Secretary concedes that expanding work in prison could "jeopardise the job prospects of the law-abiding".

This is a risk, yet the Government could easily guard against this by introducing a prison minimum wage, as recommended in our report Inside Job.

This wage would be less than the national minimum wage and would account for the living costs already borne by the prison service. However, at around £3.10 per hour, it would prevent exploitation and stop the local job market from being radically undercut.

Setting a wage at this level would not only ensure a fair wage for prisoners but would also mean that inmates earn enough to have meaningful deductions made both to support crime victims and to save for their own housing costs after release.

The Government's ambition to expand work in prison is the right one, but unless a floor is set on the wages that are paid by companies, the potential will not be realised and local employment could be affected.

Edward Boyd

Senior Research Fellow, Crime and Justice, Policy Exchange, London SW1

Sci-fi damsels in distress

I have to take issue with Emily Jupp's assertion (Arts, 11 June) that "sci-fi has always championed female role models". The massive science fiction movie boom of the 1950s failed to produce any significant heroines, and the early history of Doctor Who, which began in 1963, is littered with female companions who were used mainly as damsels in distress, or as attractive window-dressing.

Emily Jupp cites Star Trek's Lieutenant Uhura, but the black actress Nichelle Nichols, who played Uhura, actually handed in her resignation because she felt Uhura was little more than a "glorified receptionist". Nichols only withdrew her resignation after being convinced by Dr Martin Luther King that her casting as Uhura was important in the context of the civil rights struggle.

Martyn P Jackson

Cramlington, Northumberland

Public trust hits a new low

In 1912, Lord Robert Cecil, a member of the select committee inquiring into the Marconi scandal wrote: "The life of a nation is bound up with our respect for our public men and their personal integrity. This must be preserved, and unless it is we are done for absolutely."

It is clear that some of the senior serving and former government ministers, chief executives, executives and editors have lied on oath when giving evidence at the Leveson inquiry. I think public trust and confidence in such people has been greatly diminished by this disgraceful behaviour and it will take a long time to restore it. Perhaps it is too late for it to be restored and we are "done for absolutely".

William Roberts


Prime Minister down the pub

It makes me feel ashamed to be British that, in this day and age, the taxpayer cannot dig just that little deeper to provide Dave with a nanny to look after his kids while he's in the pub. It cannot be easy for him, keeping track of the two chauffeurs, the country residence, No 10, all of those expenses forms. Enough to drive a man to drink.

Martin Canning

Newbury, Berkshire

A model? Super!

Scarcely a week goes by without someone being referred to in the media as a supermodel. Today (13 June) it's the admittedly charming Petra Nemocova ("Model's charity work honoured"). Could someone explain what the difference is between a supermodel and the ordinary kind of model?

Anthony Campbell

London N14


I was interested to read the review of "Invisible: Art about the Unseen" at the Hayward Gallery (13 June). May I ask if the gallery played John Cage's "Four minutes, thirty-three seconds" as a soundtrack to the exhibition?

Jill Buss

Alresford, Hampshire

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