Londoners Demand Share of Olympic Gold

In an article from the Guardian, TELCO (East London Communities Organsiation) make some interesting demands on the strategists behind London’s Olympic bid for 2012, demands that the IWCA would probably share in many ways. With the first of many promises broken by planners (proposing car parks on Hackney Marshes and forcing the possible closure of Sunday League football there) can we expect them to seriously take into account the views and needs of Hackney’s working class majority? TELCO’s demands are a positive step, but we can’t be under any illusions that the developers and planners will really listen to us in the long run.

Cast iron guarantees of jobs, wage levels and proper compensation are being demanded by residents and businesses in London as the price for their cooperation with Britain’s Olympic bid.

As officials formally submitted the Olympic proposals for planning consideration, campaigners in east London have submitted a list of minimum requirements to ensure local people benefit from the massive regeneration promised.

They complain that residents in the most affected boroughs – Newham, Tower Hamlets, Hackney and Waltham Forest – were overlooked during the redevelopment of Docklands, Canary Wharf and the Millennium Dome.

Many of the new properties were bought by outsiders and property speculators. The expectation that locals would get new, highly skilled jobs, failed to materialise.

Three hundred companies will be displaced as well as London’s biggest church, the Kingsway International Christian Centre. Land owned by a Muslim Alliance could also be affected, including the proposed site of what would be the largest mosque in Europe.

As part of their campaign for a series of “people guarantees”, the East London Community Organisations group (Telco) has told the organisers that all jobs in the Lower Lea Valley – site of the proposed Olympic zone – must pay at least £6.70 an hour.

Telco, which has 40 smaller groups under its umbrella, says all of the highly lucrative construction contracts must include clauses ensuring that at least 30% of the labour will be local. Local schools and health services must benefit from “planning gain”, whereby private firms agree to fund social improvements.

Activists also want a share of the highly paid skilled jobs. Telco wants a guaranteed sum allocated by the Learning and Skills Council to make sure locals can compete. They want a community land trust to administer housing schemes, including homes built for the Olympic village.

Affordable family housing must be set aside for those already living in the affected boroughs. Campaigners want East London University to become a sporting centre of excellence and to take responsibility for the future use of Olympic facilities.

Neil Jameson, a Telco organiser, said: “We must have these guarantees written in from the outset because history teaches us that without them we will be overlooked. We have been regularly promised bread and circuses. Historically we get the circuses but not the bread.”

“There is support for the Olympics but on our terms.”

The planning blueprint is to be considered by a committee of councillors from the four boroughs. Their task is complicated by the fact that the detailed planning application was submitted behind schedule.

Opinion polling carried out for the mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, strongly suggests that Londoners support the capital’s bid for the games.

The proposed Olympic village in Stratford will leave a legacy of 5,000 homes and a giant aqua centre.

Some venues could be dismantled serving the purposes of local planners, who are reluctant to base their regeneration plans on buildings which may have little relevance after the games.

Neale Coleman, Mr Livingstone’s policy adviser on the Olympics, said he shared many Telco aspirations. “Certainly we hope to achieve higher employment and skills training in construction and a range of other jobs than achieved by similar projects.

“When people talk about the legacy of the Olympics they usually refer to buildings, but the real legacy is homes and jobs for local people. These things are important to the International Olympic Committee.”