Br Grace Austin
Many critics have pointed out major issues due to LOCOG’s emphasis on diversity, most notably the rising price of the Games. The predicted cost of the London Olympics has risen by £2.37 billion initially to a predicted £24 billion, largely due to contracts that are essential for the games’ diversity targets. Stephen Frost, head of inclusion at the 2012 Games, noted at a Toronto supplier diversity conference in March that some of the successful bidders were more expensive than others, but were able to fulfill all of the accessibility issues that arose in making the games disability-friendly. Carmakers that signed contracts have also been asked to make vehicles adaptable for disabled drivers.
Besides a literal “cost of diversity,” another major concern has been the figurative costs, in particular the displacement of people (mainly ethnic minorities and the poor) and “improvement” of the city in preparation for the games. The formerly working class areas have been transformed through eviction of previous residents, the raising of tenant prices, and gentrification spurred by the Olympics. Many have praised this, including Frost, who cited the East End’s “real physical transformation” from “an urban desert.”
London’s East End is home to the highest concentrations of non-white residents. Newham, home to the Olympic Village, is the most ethnically diverse district in the country. Many are predicting these areas are becoming, and will become homogenous ethnically and economically, as is characteristic of similar neighborhoods in Olympic history. Many will continue to weigh in on, during and post-Olympics, the benefits (cleaned-up areas, new hospitals and medical centers) versus the perceived or real injustices (forced and unforced removal of inhabitants, gentrification) of the games on the city.
Diversity among leaders of the Olympics is another controversial and discussed issue. Lack of minority representation in board membership is a huge concern in the corporate world, as it is in the international sports world. According to a section of the ASA (Amateur Sports Act), the 1978 legislation which established the U.S. Olympic Committee and provides for national governing bodies for each Olympic sport, a sport group is governed by a board of directors “whose members are selected without regard to race, color, religion, national origin, or sex, except that, in sports where there are separate male and female programs, it provides for reasonable representation of both male and females on the board of directors.” At the U.S. Olympic Committee, boards are 91 percent white and membership is 85 percent white. Additionally, the organization reports 91 percent of USOC managers are white and more than half are men. Quite simply, these numbers do not reflect the demographics of American Olympic athletes.
To combat this, the USOC convened a diversity working group, which offered recommendations to the USOC board in September 2011. Since then, the USOC has made steps towards hiring a chief diversity officer. In the USOC’s history, though, there has been only one black CEO, Lloyd Ward, and one female CEO, Stephanie Streeter, who both stayed less than eighteen months in their positions. Many critics have pointed out that congressional oversight is needed, which could help make the Amateur Sports Act more effective at pushing minority and female leaders into board positions. Others see progress as slow but steady, with groups like USA Basketball, with its three Caucasian females and five African Americans, serving as models for other NGBs. It remains to be seen if the boards will become more diverse, or at the least, representative of the athletes they govern.