Boris Johnson, Seb Coe and Hugh Robertson were on fine form yesterday, quite rightly revelling in the handover ceremony for the Olympic torch, embracing the event as the Games zone in to view – now just ten weeks away.
At the grassroots level, however, local Conservative councils are showing up the real Tory Olympic legacy.
In Essex, but a stone’s throw from the east London home of the 2012 Games, Tory-run Basildon council this week gave the green light to bulldoze Pitsea swimming pool so Morrisons can build a supermarket. And if there’s one thing the area needs, it’s more big supermarkets.
Presently, there is a Tesco Extra mega store, a Sainsbury’s and an Asda, with another Asda, two more Tescos and a Sainsbury’s nearby. Large parts of the local market will also be built over to make way for the Morrisons.
On the sports front, there will be no new swimming pool. Residents wishing to swim will have to take a 30-minute bus ride and then a ten-minute walk to Basildon Sporting Village – which is anyway often closed at short notice to host commercial events. Green areas are also being built over, meaning less and less space for youngsters to kick a ball about or do any kind of exercise.
More than 3,000 people signed a petition opposing the closure of the swimming pool, all to no avail.
This local Tory disdain for grassroots sport follows the 80s Thatcherite lust for building over school playing fields and takes its present lead from the Conservative-led government’s contempt for school sport, a subject we’ve repeatedly highlighted on Left Foot Forward:
• The fight to save school sport goes on 5 May 2012
• School sport cuts: “This isn’t ideology, it’s idiocy” 26 Nov 2010
It’s a sick society indeed when a rich boys school like Eton can offer 12 squash courts, 20 tennis courts, an indoor and outdoor swimming pool, four cricket fields, a nine-hole golf course, and rowing on the lake that will host the 2012 Olympics, while kids in Essex have to travel miles to their nearest pool and youngsters in Wandsworth face having to pay to play in their local playgrounds.
Where will the next Mark Foster come from?