Monday, August 30, 2004

UKIP goes international

As the ballyhoo around the various Olympic achievements (such as the stadium in Athens surviving and the Games coming to a peaceful conclusion) dies away, some of the stories go on rumbling.

Let’s get one of them out of the way first. There is a great deal of mutual back-slapping and congratulation going on. Wasn’t it all a huge success despite the misgivings? Well, naturally, it is wonderful to witness amazing achievements by various sportsmen and sportswomen (and, by the way, contrary to the impression the British media might give, there were some non-British achievements, too). Those who were not disqualified for use of drugs, had their medals taken away for cheating or dropped out of races because they were not going to be in the first three, did amazingly well and it was a pleasure to watch them.

As for how wonderful all the organization was – this sort of self-congratulation happens after every Olympics. As far as anyone can remember the media was full of it even after the 1972 Games that had witnessed the kidnapping and murder of the entire Israeli team.

Well the tents have been folded and the caravan has moved on. What now? The first thing that will happen is that Greece will realize that it is more seriously in debt than it had been before (latest estimate of cost is 12 billion euros, double of the previous estimate, in itself double of the original and we have not finished yet).

Athens will be left with a lot of buildings that cannot be used for anything else, including, probably, that famous stadium. The politicians who had created the ballyhoo will be long gone while the problems will still be there.

That is certainly what other cities have found. Who remembers the originators of the Sydney Games as the city tries to decide what to do with the various Olympic constructions that are still there as expensive unused eyesores?

Who were the politicians and media followers who sold the idea of the Games to Montreal, for which the city is still paying, thirty years on? People who were not even born when the Games took place, are paying taxes to bring the city back into the black.

Do we want this for London? No, said UKIP London last week and the repercussions of that announcement have been far-reaching. In the first place, Mayor Livingstone’s highly paid minions have still not managed to produce the evidence for his statement that 79 per cent of Londoners support the bid for the 2012 Games.

Nor have they been able to answer (what do they do all day?) the very specific questions about the economic, social and environmental aspect that UKIP London has posed.

Meanwhile, the campaign has been picked up by the media world-wide. UKIP has truly gone international.

Damian Hockney, leader of UKIP London, displayed his linguistic talents in a debate with a French official in his own language on French TV. His great moment came when he challenged the official to hold a referendum in Paris to find out whether the Parisians wanted to have the Olympics there in 2012. Zut alors, la democratie, c’est quoi? The fonctionnaire exited spluttering.

Then New York chimed in. The previous blog about UKIP’s campaign was noted in the well-known and widely read fornightly periodical National Review. The columnist Andrew Stuttaford was so taken by the idea of a referendum that he thought New York should have one, too.

Amazingly enough, even the Jerusalem Post thought the subject worthy of mention. Describing UKIP less than accurately as extreme right wing but more accurately as the party that wants Britain to withdraw from the EU, Pinchas Landau discussed the arguments against holding the Olympics in London, but came to the conclusion that these would not mean much to people in general. No city, no country, he thought would be able to withstand the glitz and glamour of holding the Olympic Games.

We beg to differ. The glamour, on the whole is long tarnished, and the glitz may be attractive to cities that do not see themselves as being important and would like to change that situation. London has no need of that sort of glitz. London is important. It is one of the great cities of the world in every sense of the word and not even Mayor Livingstone’s attempts to turn it into a grey, organized, boring place where only quangos, City Hall inspired events and lobbying organizations (of the correct political hue) flourish, can change that. UKIP may well win this debate and turn itself, in the process, into an international political force.

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