Running head: DID THE LONDON OLYMPICS BENEFIT ALL?
Did the Olympics benefit all, or
leave a legacy of widening social inequality?
Word Count: 2194
London 2012: Did the Olympics benefit all,
or leave a legacy of widening social inequality?
The Olympic Games have become a much sort after event by cities around the world. It is seen as an opportunity for the city not only to enhance and broaden its profile, but showcase its potential as an attractive place for investment (Hiller, 2006, p.318). This essay will explore the sociological impact that the Olympics have had on the city of London and its occupants. It will be argued that while there are numerous positive short term effects that come with hosting the Olympics, not only are the positive long term effects few and far between, but there is a number of negative effects impacting those belonging to the lower socio-economic group. By examining what has occurred in London and comparing this particular Olympics to some past cities that have played host (Barcelona, Sydney, Athens etc), this essay will show that while stimulating economic growth, contributing to the short term happiness of the inhabitants and more recently, promoting environmental sustainability, the Olympics generally bring few benefits for socially excluded groups. Firstly, by looking at the history of the five London borough’s to be transformed by the Olympics, we will examine whether class theory is still a relevant issue for London and if Marx and Webber’s ideas are still applicable. The argument will then be divided into economic, social, cultural and political spheres, with each being discussed in terms how they were affected by hosting the Olympics in London. The Olympics may be of only short duration; however its impact and meaning may exist far beyond the event itself for the host city (Hiller, 2000, p.440). The most visible of these impacts relates to the infrastructural improvements. All host cities carry out extensive regeneration of urban areas and in London most of this “clean up and reorientation of city spaces” occurred in the five East London Olympic host boroughs of Newham, Tower Hamlets, Hackney, Waltham Forest and Greenwich. (LERI, 2007, p. 5). Traditionally, East London has been the heart of manufacturing and industrial work; it has been home to London’s working classes and has remained relatively poor compared to the rest of the city. In the last decade improvements in infrastructure and the regeneration of London’s docklands has seen the boroughs become socially polarised with small pockets of relative affluence surrounded by the still high concentration of relative poverty. The present day London is vastly different to Marx’s 19th century version, yet the re-emergence of class as a defining factor has seen a new generation of those once again being influenced by his writing and evolutionary vision. Marx believed that class is best understood in terms of economic factors; his theoretical model is of a two class structure of owners and non-owners (Habibis & Walter, 2009, p. 18). Today’s London is not that different, austerity measures and rising unemployment have deepened the gulf dividing the haves and the have nots. In the New York Times, an article by Katrin Bennhold (2012, April 26) states More than a third of British land is still in aristocratic hands, according to a 2010 ownership survey by Country Life magazine. In the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition cabinet, 15 of the 23 ministers went to Oxford or Cambridge. With this in mind, Webber’s multidimensional model of inequality and his argument that it is power rather than class that ultimately determines the distribution of resources in society (Habibis & Walter, 2009, p.19) can be used to explain how London is currently being governed. Webber placed much emphasis on the market and in doing so was able to account for the importance of non-material resources, such as...
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