Empty seats at the Olympics show the reality of corporate Britain

Posted on July 29, 2012 by | 3 Comments

I watched a bit of the Olympics yesterday. The road race cycling seemed to be well attended, even if many of us didn’t get the result we wanted to see. But watching the tennis made me wonder why there were so many empty seats. It dawned on me that these were probably seats offered to corporate sponsors, and unfilled because they couldn’t find people to fill them. I was right. Corporations are denying seats to people. And it wasn’t just tennis, it was all of the events. Amazing gymnastic feats were being performed to half full arenas.

Then it struck me that this was a pretty profound demonstration of the state of Britain. Literally tens of thousands of people wanted tickets to events like gymnastics and tennis. But they were denied those tickets because the corporate monoliths that have the money to pay for branding claimed tickets they couldn’t even use.

Banks, management consultants, PFI companies, and the plutocratic elite of global capitalism are wasting seats at Britain’s sporting event of a lifetime.

It is notable because it’s so obvious.

In other places it’s hidden because you can’t see the massive pile of cash that corporations have stacked up. You can’t see the impact their executives have on the housing market, buying properties they neither need nor use. The damage they do by manipulating food prices to the cost of consumers and producers. The people untreated so that the NHS can pay for the profits of corporations that have built PFI hospitals. The NHS is obliged to meet PFI payments to corporations before they pay for treatment for the ill, for doctors or for nurses.

This has a huge impact on our lives. The recession is being lengthened by a lack of spending – a lack of spending caused by corporate hoarding of money. Big corporates are raking in the profits while people go untreated in PFI hospitals. Public services are being slashed while quantitative easing building up banks’ balance sheets and in turn fueling bankers’ bonuses. Speculators are driving up the price of food and other commodities. All of this is causing the cost of living to increase for most people. And most of it is being done simply because corporate Britain likes hoarding things it doesn’t need. Things much more important than seats at the Olympics.

And this is why the government and the right wing media are so keen to pour abuse on disabled people for claiming benefits. It’s why there is a constant attack on immigrants for ‘taking our houses and jobs’. In fact, it’s not disabled people, or immigrants that are taking our houses and our jobs. Attacks on disabled people, people who can’t get jobs and immigrants are a way to distract from the people really making it difficult for us. It’s corporate Britain and the plutocratic elite that controls those corporations that is making us all poorer.

The key problem we must tackle in the years ahead is the utter corporate domination of our society and democracy. It’s not public services we can’t afford. It is big corporations piling up cash they don’t need that we can’t afford.

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3 Responses to “Empty seats at the Olympics show the reality of corporate Britain”

  1. APNo Gravatar
    July 30th, 2012 @ 4:04 am

    Except your “corporate domination of the Olympics” theory falls down somewhat with the news that these seats are not those that have been given to Olympic sponsors, but rather those that were given to the “Olympic family”, such as NOCs, other athletes and coaches and the media…


  2. Peter Mountford-SmithNo Gravatar
    July 31st, 2012 @ 10:47 pm

    It seems odd for AP to claim that the empty seats are not those given to sponsors, when all accounts that I have seen bunch together sponsors, NOCs, the “Olympic family” and media, and don’t seem able to identify which of these groups have left what quantity of seats unused; because the empty seats are unticketed, presumably.

    One explanation from the Telegraph is this:

    “…Around eight per cent of tickets have been made available to sponsors and three quarters to the public. Another 12 per cent go to National Olympic Committees five per cent to the “Olympic family” of athletes and officials. While some of the unused seats are those reserved for the “Olympic family” who simply do not turn up to events they are not interested in, the greater problem comes from the agencies who handle the sale of the tickets abroad. Up to 70,000 of those tickets could be simply thrown away because it is not cost-efficient for ticket agencies to return them. Another 50,000 premium tickets are being held back by foreign ticket agencies hoping to make a killing by selling them at grossly inflated prices at the last minute…”

    Possibly the NOC officials are a bit wary of selling on tickets for personal profit this time round, given the fuss that has been made about this sort of petty corruption in previous years. Sponsors and ticket agencies leaving seats empty, either deliberately or not, certainly fits the description of “corporate domination”.

    But of course the point about corporate domination of the Olympics is far wider than the issue of empty seats. I was interested to read this description of it from Andrew Gilligan in the Telegraph, an individual and a journal which can hardly be described as thinking of corporations as inherently bad. His point is to attack the left as too uncritical of the games, but the points he makes about the games’ defining characteristics are telling, and certainly bear out the view that there has been wholesale domination by corporate interests, extending to attacks on civil liberty, harassment, arrest and eviction. The empty seats seem the lesser problem.



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