A friend of mine whose family has battled indifferent and incompetent state and local bureaucracy through four domestic adoptions punctuates every horror story by saying, “And every politician who talks about how children are the most important thing is lying.”
I have a corollary. Every politician, or anybody else, who says that some sports arena or sporting event is going to pay huge dividends to a city, county, state or province is lying.
Latest example, your 2012 Olympic host city, London.
The British government said last week that the estimated costs for building the facilities for the Olympic events had risen by about 40 percent. Don’t worry, though. It’s still early. The costs will rise a lot more by the time 2012 comes around.
So the original $4.7 billion estimate is now $6.4 billion. Hey, what’s $1.7 billion when you’re talking about the human drama of athletic competition? Especially when you consider that we’re talking about pounds, so the increase is only 900 million. Peanuts!
Here’s my favorite part of the Reuters story about the cost overruns: “The new estimate for the Olympic Park includes a 400 million pound fee that will be paid to consultants responsible for making sure costs come in on budget, [Sports Minister Tessa] Jowell told a parliamentary committee.”
That’s about $779 million. So the fee to ensure that cost overruns stay under control constitutes 44 percent of the overrun itself. So far.
Don’t worry, though. That percentage will shrink.
But it’s OK because the whole reason for this huge building project is to revitalize the area of Stratford, East London, which has been scuffling economically for a little while now. Like centuries.
The original price tag for that renaissance was an estimated $6.6 billion, which you’ll recognize as being about $200 million more than the new estimate for just the sports facilities, before a farthing has been spent on a massive security effort, a huge value added tax bill or any other ancillary cost.
When you consider that they’re paying some consultants almost four times that much to make sure nobody wastes money, you understand that $200 million won’t go too far. $200 million is three business lunches and a taxi ride for those consultants.
Reuters says the total cost for the Olympics could approach $20 billion. The Associated Press quotes some British lawmakers estimating closer to $15 billion.
London Mayor Ken Livingstone, however, told the BBC not to worry, the Olympics will still make a profit, and taxpayers won’t be dunned for anything more than what was in the original budget.
He’s a politician talking about publicly financed sports arenas. Do you believe him?
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Notes on word usage [PERMALINK]
A note to my colleagues in the commentariat on proper use of descriptive language:
Did you catch the end of that Duke-Indiana game Tuesday night? The young, offensively challenged Blue Devils barely survived at home, holding off an injury-depleted but game Hoosiers team 54-51.
In the aftermath, Indiana’s Errek Suhr, a little-used 5-9 senior guard who had turned in a valiant 24 minutes — nearly doubling his total from the first four games of the year — and nearly willed his team to victory, looked crushed after having missed a desperation 3-pointer at the buzzer.
The miss really hadn’t been his fault. After Suhr stole a fumbled in-bounds pass with nine seconds left, he passed to open teammate Armon Bassett, who, needing a three to tie, made the colossal blunder of driving to the basket.
Bassett realized his mistake just in time to throw the ball back to a covered Suhr, who only had time to heave the ball up while leaning in, hoping for a foul that didn’t come, and let’s face it wasn’t going to come within the city limits of Durham, N.C.
As the teams shook hands Suhr ended up in front of the Indiana bench, hands on his knees, looking at the floor, dejected. Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski walked up to him and, with a quick gesture, a little touch under the chin, got him to stand up straight so Coach K could talk to him.
That, my friends in the typing and chattering racket, is how you “lift” someone’s chin, which you’ll recall is how most of you described it when Bob Knight landed an open-handed uppercut on the jaw of one of his players, Michael Prince, who ended up back on the bench rubbing his jaw and trying to work the kinks out of it.
In fact, try it yourself. If someone’s looking down and you want them to look up, just touch the bottom of their chin. They’ll look up. Best to try this on someone you know. Or you could “lift” the person’s chin the way Bob Knight lifted Michael Prince’s chin, and, depending on the power relationships going on, you might or might not get punched back.
Previous column: Michael Richards, Michael Vick and the denial of self
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