We've all seen the horror stories: the Olympic Studium in Athens rotting away, unused and forgotten. But after the 2012 Games, universally hailed as a triumph, much noise was made about the way Queen Elizabeth Park and ongoing lottery funding would support the people of East London.
It seems, though, that things haven't quite worked out that way. Quite the opposite, in fact. The government diverted £425million from the Big Lottery Fund to help build the Olympic Park in Stratford–a sum it is yet to repay. This is despite a final underspend figure on the 2012 Olympics of nearly £500million.
Moreover, charities are furious that the Stadium has been handed over to West Ham Football Club for the next 99 years. Charity relief campaigners The Directory Of Social Change, which has called on the new Mayor Of London Sadiq Khan to intervene, points out that the stadium was built using public money and will now solely benefit the owners of West Ham. Hardly the definition of legacy we'd consider to be in the best interests of the people...
The need to pay back monies owed to the Lottery have become more urgent in the face of Brexit, as charitable causes are set to lose £225million in EU funding. The Third Sector, struggling more than ever as donations dry up, need the money they are rightly owed to keep themselves, and the lives of the people they support, above water.
Ciaran Price of the Directory For Social Change puts the situation plainly:
Our View: this is simply unsporting behaviour by the government, who seem to view Big Lottery Fund money as free cash that they can dip into as and when they need. This sets a dangerous precedence, and should be rightly pushed back against. It's bad enough the money was taken in the first place, but as it transpires it was never needed, it should be immediately returned to the people who can make best use of it.
“While many charities are seeing demand for their services rising at a speed never before experienced, and while they are finding it more and more difficult to get the financial support they need to meet this new level of demand, the government has been sitting on this money, continuously trying to kick it further into the long grass, hoping we’ll somehow forget about it.”