Mike the Psych's Blog

What if psychologists ruled the world? In real life?


Olympic feel good factor – if you’re a Londoner!

UnknownThe 2012 Olympic games cost us £8 billion. Think what you could have built with that?

A new study has estimated that the Games gave the average Londoner an uplift in happiness equivalent to a £8,000 pay rise! Unfortunately the feelings of happiness wore after after 12 months.

We had all the usual promises about the legacy the games would leave if we hosted it but it just doesn’t happen. “The overwhelming conclusion is that in most cases the Olympics are a money-losing proposition for host cities”

Apart from the IOC fat cats of course who do very well thank you.

Paul Dolan, a professor of behavioural sciences at the LSE, and Georgios  Kavestos, at Queen Mary University London, wondered if the feeling of satisfaction would make up for the financial losses. Immediately after the games 55% of Brits interviewed thought it was a worthwhile investment.

Researchers in London, Berlin, and Paris looked into life satisfaction, short-term happiness, anxiety levels and the sense that people’s lives were worthwhile.

Londoners felt significantly happier and more satisfied with their lives for a short time. It had the same effect as moving them from earning £10k a year to £18k. There was no such effect in  Paris or Berlin (and what about in the rest of the UK? Londoners are not the UK). And some of them would no doubt prefer to have the money.

The opening and closing ceremonies also produced a spike in happiness levels at both games (Olympics and Paralympics) albeit accompanied by a strong sense of anxiety about terrorist attacks.

The feelings of satisfaction were not connected with athletes’ success which is strange as we were third in the medals table. Maybe people just don’t care about the medals – just the medallists who cashed in on their fleeting fame.

And as stated the post-Olympic hangover cancelled out any gains. So was it worth it? Spending all that money on the games instead of “more lasting benefits like schools, infrastructure or employment?

If you want to host a party, host a party and that’s fine.The problem with events such as the Olympics is they come with all these claims that they are going to boost jobs and the economy. If you look at the literature that isn’t true. Like any party you have a great time but wake up with a hangover” said Dr Kavestos.

Some of us have been saying that for years. And don’t even mention what happened when they gave the stadium to a premier league football club! It’s always all about London.

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Olympians – digging for Gold

UnknownSo Team GB has had a great 2016 Olympics in Rio. Second in the medals table to boot with more medals than we won at home in 2012.

So give yourselves a big pat on the back. Yes you. After all you’ve paid for it through your taxes and in the process made some of the successful athletes into millionaires.

So next time you see yet another picture of an Olympian sticking their tongue out or pretending to bite the gold medal as if it were a chocolate one, bear that in mind.

There is no Olympic ethos any more. Everyone taking part is a professional, well-paid through government grants not to mention sponsorship.

The Sunday Times published a list of our wealthy athletes on Sunday and I think like me you’ll be surprised how well they’ve done financially.

Top of the heap is that dour Scot Andy Murray (who has never supported English teams) with a net worth of £62 million. For knocking a tennis ball about and scowling!

Next up is Justin Rose who is a golfer worth £33 million.

What are tennis and golf are doing in the Olympic games  anyway?

Then it’s the cyclists. Sir Bradley Wiggins worth £13 million, Mark Cavendish worth £12 million and Chris Froome £10 million.

Jessica-Ennis Hill, pride of Yorkshire, is worth £5 million whilst Mo Farah is worth £4 million. And both of these have done some pretty awful TV commercials.

The Brownlee brothers are worth £3.5 million and diver Tom Daley £2.5 million (but he probably has a calendar coming up).

Laura Trott is only worth a measly £700,000 but I hope she resists Hello and strictly come dancing-type overtures.

And on top of these financial rewards there’ll be lots of gongs for people who spend all their life doing what they enjoy the most and getting paid handsomely for it!

And the hangers-on in the so-called Olympic family of officials don’t do so badly either enjoying a 5-star lifestyle.

And what about the public? many can’t afford tickets, live in appalling conditions, often in slum areas. What does it do for them?

As I previously posted: Olympic legacy? What legacy?


Echoes of Munich 1972…………..

Kindadukish's Blog - I am not a number, I am a free man (The Prisoner)

02MUNICHweb4-master675.jpgMartin Samuels writing in his column in the Daily Mail commented on some of the happenings at the Olympics and in a few short sentences has summed up perfectly the attitude to Israel and its athletes by those countries that follow the “religion of peace”……I leave you to make your own judgement on the actions!

“The Lebanese Olympic official blocked the Israeli athletes from sharing the bus, as arranged.

The Saudi Arabian judoka, Joud Fahmy, forfeited her first-round match rather than risk facing an Israeli.

And on Friday, defeated Egyptian judoka Islam El Shehaby refused to shake hands or deliver the traditional bow to his opponent, Israel’s Or Sasson, having been warned on social media he would shame his country and religion by doing so.

He was quite correctly sent home in disgrace by his national association. There can be zero tolerance for intolerance at the Olympic Games, or this…

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Olympic legacy? What legacy?

UnknownSupporters of big events like the world cup or the olympics try to justify the obscene amounts of public money spent by claiming that there will be a legacy for future generations.

What a load of rubbish. Since the 2012 London olympics – which cost £9.3 billion – more than 2,500 sports facilities including athletics tracks, playing fields and swimming pools have been closed.

There are 1,729 fewer tennis facilities, 3,180 fewer sports grounds, stadiums and pitches but 323 more riding schools and2,226 more gyms, sports halls or leisure centres.

Sport England, the government quango which is supposed to encourage grass roots sport, disputes the figures – naturally. They say there are more sites and facilities than there were 4 years ago and they verify these annually – not just using maps.

The research was carried out by a digital mapping company using ordnance survey data and looked at both public and private facilities. It found 78,720 sporting facilities in Britain, 2,672 fewer than in 2012.

Yorkshire athletes did so well in 2012 that they would have been 12th in the medal table if they had been an independent country.

Yet its the Yorkshire and Humber region which experienced the biggest drop in facilities of 7%. 386 fewer sports grounds, stadiums and pitches and 160 fewer tennis facilities.  And Sheffield has demolished the 25,000 seat Don Valley stadium to save money.

It seems the only people who benefit from these extravaganzas are the well-paid athletes, Sport England quango staff who get paid regardless of what they achieve, and people like Seb Coe and the olympic family of hangers-on who enjoy 5 start treatment and perks wherever they pitch up,

And the in the case of the London olympics West Ham United football club who got a brand new stadium for peanuts subsidised by the tax payer.

It’s not the first time I’ve posted about this scandalous waste of money but if you criticise it some people think you’re being disloyal.

It’s the same with the World Cup in football. Locals rarely benefit from the investment.


Big Sport doesn’t come cheap

brazil_flag_with_soccer_ball_1600_wht_2747Big events like the Olympics and the World Cup are promoted as being good for the host countries despite evidence to the contrary or at only of a short-term impact.

The organisers behind these events do very well thank you as they bask in sponsorship and tax-free arrangements.

The truth is often different for the host country. There are serious doubts about the 2016 Olympics in Brazil  after the head of the Olympic public authority resigned and the Chief Operating Officer has revealed a  shortfall in the $2.8 billion operating budget for the games.

Even the mayor of Rio de Janeiro has said it’s a pity that they’re hosting the Olympics as the Brazilian government is unprepared and they have “… to handle the legacy of the games

And it seems that five of the six stadia will not be completed in time for the 2014 World Cup despite spending $8.5 billion on the competition.

The re have beenriots in protests about the lavish spending ,when public services are underfunded, corruption, high crime rates and police brutality. Thousands of people have been relocated to make room for the infrastructure required by the Olympics and the World Cup and they say they haven’t been compensated properly. The safety of tourists has also been questioned.

Football fans be warned!


The Olympic party’s over – now back to reality

P1000268Before the Olympics started we had lots of negative stories – so-called “Zil” lanes for the favoured Olympic family, the ticketing fiasco, the G4S fiasco, the sponsors having it all their own way with small businesses suffering from not being able to identify with the Olympics, even those who had actually worked on building the Olympic facilities.

There was so much PR and positive spin being put out that I posted a blog last December asking what the Olympics were actually good for“.

And in April 2 out of 3 people in a BBC survey thought the taxpayers had paid too much for the Olympics.

Then we had a slow start before we won anything with even more acrimony about tickets and half-empty venues; and the centre of London was pretty empty too with trade down between 30 and 60% and being branded a ghost town.

Some of this was self-inflicted by hotels which had hiked up their prices and then suffered for their greed when tour companies didn’t take up bookings and people stayed away because of high prices and warnings about traffic congestion. Of course the 5-star hotels were fully booked by Olympic sponsors and officials and their families on tax-free junkets.

The fall in numbers also affected shops, museums, theatres, taxis, and restaurants right in the middle of the peak tourist season.

Then we began to win medals and in the end had a very successful Olympics, perhaps better than we expected.

Of course we had disappointments and failures too. And there were also examples of unfairness. The Taekwondo selection was bizarre, not selecting the World No 1 because he trained independently. And, as he predicted, he had beaten the eventual Gold medal winner. In cycling Victoria Pendleton was unfairly disqualified after her rival clearly nudged her out of the lane.

And unfairness to our armed forces being forced to give up their leave after returning from Afghanistan. This however turned into a PR victory for them as everyone seemed to appreciate their role. But that was no thanks to the mismanagement of the G4S contract by the government.

There was also blatant sex discrimination when male teams travelled first class and the female teams flew in economy.

And the big question remains about the legacy. Apparently sales of bikes and rowing machines are up but we still don’t have sport in schools as a priority.

Will we make any money out of it? Well the gold medallists will be set up for life with their honours and sponsorships. That seems a bit unfair too after the tax payer has supported them in doing something they love and they are the only ones to get rich. But the Olympics is a get-rich mechanism for the International Olympic Committee and the sponsors who don’t pay any tax.

We put in about £10 Billion  as taxpayers, paid through the nose for tickets, and yet it’s the sponsors who get the credit for a few measly millions they write off as expenses anyway. And it wasn’t as if it created any real lasting employment. Jobs might have been created during the construction phase but that was two years ago. The games wouldn’t have worked without the 10,000 volunteers who only got free transport and maybe a luncheon voucher.

David Cameron says there will be a £13 Billion legacy from the Olympics and is desperately setting up meetings for investors. He should be reading the in-depth analyses of previous events set out in the business sections of The Observer and the Sunday Times (and probably elsewhere). It doesn’t make good reading.

The Centre for Economics and Business Research estimates that the games could pay or themselves by 2021 by helping London generate an extra £1.8 Billion a year by 2015. Note the reference to London.

A BBC survey in July showed that 3 out of 4 people thought the rest of the UK wouldn’t benefit – not really surprising considering it was billed as the London Olympics. People in power seem to forget that there is life outside London and that Team GB was actually Team GB & Northern Ireland. And where would we have been in the medals table without the magnificent contribution from Yorkshire?

The Centre also estimates that the lost revenue from tourists and the drop in productivity due to 1.5 million people working from home during the Olympics has cost the UK economy £1 Billion this year.

The director of the Greater London Group at the London School of Economics said that the Olympic games were not the way to get Britain out of the recession and that even if there was a short-term boost to the economy it would be very small. The fall-back in tourist activity has damaged estimates of economic activity arising from the games.

We may have already seen any benefits we were going to get two years ago and now we are more likely to see the downside as productivity fell during the games. And there is no guarantee that global companies will want to  invest in the UK or buy our products when labour is cheaper elsewhere and taxation even more flexible.

But this is typical of Olympic games. Australia’s economy went flat after the 2000 games as did Greece’s after 2004. Citi examined data from 10 Olympics between 1964 and 2008 and found that growth rose in the run-up but started to fall away as the games began and was weak thereafter. Australia saw a 16% increase in visitors for their Olympics but suffered a drop for the 3 years afterwards

The BBC survey back in April found that just over half the people (mistakenly) thought the Olympics would prove to be good value in terms of benefits. Now a survey shows that a similar proportion of people don’t expect the Olympic buzz to last – and they’d be right to think that.

Professor Stefan Szymanski, a specialist in the economics of sport at the University of Michigan, says there is evidence that there are negligible economic benefits but that it can make people happier. He said; “If you tell me there’s going to be a party, that’s great – but if you tell me that you’re going to have a party  and get rich at the same time, then I’m not going to believe you”.

It’s not just the Olympics but any major sporting event such as the World Cup. Organisers (who insist on special tax dispensations for themselves) bang on about the legacy in terms of sport and the economy but it just doesn’t happen. The last World Cup in South Africa is a good example.


Olympic games are good for what exactly?

You may have noticed that the government has increased the budget for the opening and closing ceremonies for the Olympic games by £40M. Not a lot in the scale of things but you’d think in these times of austerity they could do something a bit more useful.

How exactly will it benefit this country? It won’t bring in more tourists once they realise how much they’ve been ripped off going to stay in London.

And then there’s all the talk about how the games will be good for business. Well maybe in London but is it going to benefit people in Gateshead or Runcorn or Carlisle?

People living in London can’t even get tickets but if you are a corporate sponsor you will have already got your share. And don’t get me going on sponsors – MacDonald’s, that well-know healthy food outlet!

But we know it’s all about the money not the olympic ideal. Athletes don’t perform for pride in their country but in the hope of winning gold and then getting on the honours list or even a seat in the House of Lords and a couple of directorships. Lord Coe hasn’t done too badly has he? The Olympic ideal disappeared long ago when we started paying athletes to do what they enjoyed doing.

As Matthew Syed pointed out in a Times column earlier this year, there is no evidence that the investment in sports quangos running into hundreds of millions has actually increased participation levels or that sport improves self-esteem, reduces delinquency, or increases community cohesion. It may improve health but is unlikely to save the NHS any money in the long run.

At one time it was believed by economist that major sporting events could benefit the country but that hasn’t always turned out to be the case.

So let’s keep the whole thing in perspective. Most of us can’t afford to go and watch it and if we do go we know we’ll get ripped off by all and sundry like innocent tourists abroad (hotel prices are up 300% blamed partly on the fact that officials and sponsors bagged the first 50,ooo rooms).

Some athletes will do well out of it, increasing their sponsorship maybe thereby putting off the day they will need to get a proper job, having someone ghost-writing a book for them, doing personal appearances etc.

People will skive off work to watch their favourite events on TV so productivity will be down. And if we don’t win anything we’ll all be depressed. It’s hard to create a feel-good factor with the economy in the state it’s in.