Fox (n): carnivore of genus vulpes; crafty person; scavenger; (vb) to confuse; -ed (adj): to be drunk.
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Thursday 12 July 2012

An expensive way to get screwed.

IN about two months' time everyone involved in the Olympics is going to be rapidly washing their hands of it.

Just as with any orgy, it will all look a bit seedy once the fun's over, there will need to be a massive clean-up operation, and when the responsible person is totting up the bill everyone else will be quietly sneaking off home.

But before that happens there is the prospect of having ringside seats at a £24bn orgy, and when there are freebies to be blagged at the taxpayer's expense you can guarantee the slimiest bottom-feeders will crawl out to snaffle them.

Which is why John Whittingdale, chairman of the culture select committee in the House of Commons, has decided it's a good idea to accept some of the most sought-after tickets at the entire event to the men's 100metre final.

These are no ordinary tickets either - they come complete with corporate hospitality, a brief 'presentation' by BT which paid for them, and no doubt a chauffeur-driven car and some decent champagne, too.

Never mind that thousands of people tried and failed to get tickets for any of the Olympic events. Never mind there are many who would give their right eye for the chance to watch the fastest man on earth run around a stadium we all helped to pay for.

Never mind that BT would do a lot more for its public image if it handed those tickets to some of its own randomly-selected customers, or that the thousands of people who worked on building the Olympics venues didn't get invited to sit in them afterwards.

Even Zaha Hadid, the architect who designed the aquatics centre where Britain has some of its best chances at medals, didn't get a ticket.

No, because as Mr Whittingdale says: "My committee has spent five years having regular sessions on the preparations for the Olympics. It's not terribly surprising that we might have wanted to go and have a look."

Fellow committee member Philip Davies added: "We've been scrutinising the Olympics for ages. I don't see why we shouldn't go along and have a look at the games."

You're not going to watch the ping pong though, are you?

Even committee members who turned the tickets down felt it was fair enough they should go, because of all the hard work they put in while sitting down scrutinising, for which we have already paid Mr Whittingdale an extra £14,582 on top of his MP's salary of £65,738.

And what has all this scrutinising brought us?

* A failure to spot security firm G4S did not have the guards it had promised to recruit under its £284million contract despite the fact another group of scrutineers - the rather excellent Public Accounts Committee - were rather better at scrutinising and pointed out the whole thing was a shambles back in March. The security bill doubled, the original estimates were seriously out of whack, and the Home Office didn't realise G4S' original plan needed to be beefed up until six months after the terror threat level was raised.

* A failure to spot until someone else noticed it a fortnight beforehand that this gap would need to be plugged with 3,500 extra military staff on top of those already seconded to the Olympics, meaning we will have 17,000 troops involved in the games overall when we have only 10,000 actually fighting in Afghanistan.

* A failure to spot that the volunteers and civilian guards who have been recruited need to get to the venues for 5.30am to clear security before a 6.30am start. The Tube does not start until 5.30am, there are no special buses laid on, and they are not given any parking spaces. This surely means either they will be an hour late for their unpaid or minimum-wage work, be getting up at 3am to walk it, or dumping their cars in residential areas nearby.

* A failure to spot that select committees whose role includes scrutinising telecommunications firms ought not to be taking freebies from said firms.

* A failure to spot that the £2bn original budget for the games has grown to £9.4bn and the entire thing is expected to come in at nearer £24bn once you take into account the money spent on upgrading the transport networks, overtime, and the spend on intelligence services and counter-terrorism.

In fact, while the culture committee has heard plenty of evidence and asked questions of people running the games, it has not produced a report on the subject since 2008. So while Mr Whittingdale may feel it's been scrutinising, it's not told anyone the results of that scrutiny which makes the scrutiny not only half-arsed but thus far pretty pointless, too.

A lot of these problems come under the remit of other committees, but the Olympics is the baby of the Department of Culture, Media and Sport and therefore the overview of how the whole thing's going is the responsibility of Mr Whittingdale's committee.

And as far as he is concerned, the whole thing is going very well indeed if he gets a free glass of champers and a trackside seat to watch Usain shoot his Bolt.

The Olympics may well be fun, they're probably going to give us some new people to love, but they haven't even begun yet and it already seems seedy, expensive and like it all needs a good wipe-down with disinfectant.

But then that's the problem with orgies - they never attract the people you'd like them to.

I just want to watch.