Wednesday, April 11, 2007
  Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner too

Londoners were inordinately pleased when it was announced that the 2012 Olympics were to be held in 'our' city. It was felt to be an honour and a chance to revitalise a part of the city in need of it.

To revitalise does not mean to redevelop so much as to regenerate. It is about sustainable development, a long-term view rather than a quick fix. It does not mean clearing out residents whose families have been in the area for generations in order to let nouveau riche move in and enjoy the spoils.

The Olympic Movement recognises this, or says it does.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has played an important role in the development of the sport and environment agenda, by establishing a policy that seeks to provide greater resources to sustainable development in and through sport at national, regional and international level, and particularly at the Olympic Games.

This policy has two main objectives:
• it strives to promote Olympic Games which respect the environment and meet the standards of sustainable development.
• it also aims to promote awareness among and educate the members of the Olympic family and sports practitioners in general of the importance of a healthy environment and sustainable development.

The IOC, therefore, has a major task in ensuring that host cities meet these objectives and all this wonderful verbiage is probably one of the reasons for the IOC being named by the United Nations Environment Programme as a Champion of the Earth 2007, along with Al Gore, an HRH and an HE and three other prominent and inspirational environmental leaders.

IOC President Jacques Rogge said, “Since the early 90s, the IOC and the Olympic Movement have progressively taken the environment and sustainability into account throughout the lifecycle of an Olympic Games project. The ‘Green Games’ concept is increasingly a reality. Today, from the beginning of a city’s desire to stage an Olympic Games, through to the long-term impact of those Games, environmental protection and, more importantly, sustainability, are prime elements of Games planning and operations."

The London Olympics are of little relevance to us here in Indonesia. This is not because there will be few medals won by Indonesians, but because even when someone like Taufik Hidayat won the badminton gold and dedicated it to the millions back home watching, we weren't. The TV moguls here couldn't see any profit in screening the Games.

And the London Olympics might cost the earth. Literally.

Unlike here in Jakarta where public green spaces are sold off for Mega Malls and petrol stations in corrupt defiance of spatial plans, Londoners have generally had a say in planning matters and what goes where. The site of Olympic Games in 2012 is currently a semi-derelict industrial wasteland which no longer serves the London Docks, where wharves and warehouses have largely been converted into penthouses, condominiums and lofts for commuters into the counting houses of the City of London.

If the end result of the London Games is going to be improved housing, transport and sports facilities for the continued benefit of Londoners, then we can only applaud. In terms of financial cost, the Games are going to be a darn sight more expensive than originally envisaged, but, hey, they can always print some more money.

But will they actually provide sustainable environmental legacies, such as rehabilitated and revitalised sites, increased environmental awareness, and improved environmental policies and practices?

Not according to a group of people whose families have been in the area for 100 years. That's how long the Manor Garden Allotments have been tended. An allotment is a plot of land which is cultivated, generally for food crops. Gardening keeps us in touch with our roots, ash to ash, dust to dust etc. as individuals, yet allotments are a sub-divided piece of land so are, in that sense, communal. As well as nurturing nature one cultivates relationships. and, without the adrenaline boost and energy expenditure of a competitive sporting activity, can be enervating in a more spiritual sense..

The planners of the London Olympics want to 'beautify' the city and replace these allotments with a 'green walkway' so that visitors over for the four-week festival of sport won't be offended by the apparent untidiness and randomness of vegetables growing.

The sad truth is that the results of someone playing with design software on a computer screen is deemed more important than the reality of a century of history, love and individual effort.

Another sad truth is that rather than having the randomness of parks, Jakarta's planners want the tidiness (and financial perks) of malls. They also play with design software - be aware: this site has 15 flash ads, presumably because they think they're good for "Busseniss".

Indonesia's bureaucrats are trained to ignore public needs. In fact, as Oigal rightly rants, they are trained to be bullies.

Another student had died from bullying at the Institute of Public Administration (IPDN), a quasi military school for wanna be public servants (which is a misnomer in its own right). This is not the first time this hell hole of thugs has been in the news: a senior lecturer at the school reported "34 students had died at IPDN since 1993."

SBY has called for a total reform of this college as well as the parallel military colleges. Maybe in a generation or two Jakartans can expect the same level of public service as Londoners.

And maybe in a generation or two Londoners can expect a level of service that benefits them in the sustainable future, much as a lot of allotments have done and will, hopefully, continue to do.


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