Raided reserves, extra staff, and lots of bunting: how did your council foot the £13m torch relay bill?

Intersport general manager Tom Foley and Next's Group Product Director Christos Angelides exchange an olympic 'torch kiss'

Intersport general manager Tom Foley and Next’s Group Product Director Christos Angelides exchange an olympic ‘torch kiss’ – photo from BBC Stoke

By Carol Miers, Juliet Ferguson and Paul Bradshaw

Funds intended for maritime festivals, economic development, council reserves and food markets were among pots which were raided to pay for torch relay bills, according to an investigation by Help Me Investigate users.

The details come from almost 100 Freedom of Information requests to local authorities by Carol Miers and Juliet Ferguson. They reveal that over £4m was spent by respondents to meet Olympic organisers’ requirements for hosting the events. If the figures are representative, the total bill across the UK could top £13m.

Now we need your help to find out more.

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Cultural Olympiad funding – internal review finds Arts Council “innocent”

Arts Council England has found no evidence of malpractice in the way it funded “artist-led” projects in Yorkshire, following an investigation by Help Me Investigate user Carol Lee.

Following an internal review which interviewed only six people, Arts Professional’s Liz Hill suggests that the body is attempting to “reinvent history”:

“Suggesting that the title of the programme ‘Artists Taking the Lead’ was referring to the project selection process, and that the naïve artists who thought they were in with a chance of turning their artistic dreams into reality were ‘mistaken’ about the nature of the funding scheme, is insulting in the extreme.”

Arts Professional reports on the review:

“The report is based on published documents, together with six interviews by Efunshile, five of them with Yorkshire ATTL panel members and one a former member of Leeds City Council. Whilst acknowledging that the expression of interest for the programme was drafted jointly by the Artistic Director of Yorkshire Dance and the City Council’s Head of Arts and Events on behalf of the Leeds Canvas consortium group, Efunshile says: “I do not agree that this is evidence that the bid was not artist-led or that the bid was in fact Leeds City Council led.” She admits that the “guidance was clear that ‘Ideas cannot be accepted from organisations which are not led by artists such as local authorities or higher education institutions…’””

Yorkshire Times reports on Cultural Olympiad funding allegations

The ongoing investigation into conflicts of interest in the awarding of Cultural Olympiad arts funding has now led to reports in the Yorkshire Times.

As previously reported by HMI Olympics, the application process in Yorkshire saw the awarding of funds breaking rules that “artist-led and that local authorities and higher education institutions were ineligible”.

The Yorkshire Times reports:

“Since her initial allegations 70 Yorkshire artists and others have rallied round to support her and question how the Arts Council operated its procedures for awarding the contract for ATTL.

“Ms Lee’s concerns will fuel rumours in the Yorkshire arts world, that have been circulating for some time, that funding for organisations and projects tends to go to those whose “faces fit”. There is evidence that a number of individuals and small arts organisations, whose work has been recognised as high quality, will no longer submit grant applications to the Arts Council, having been turned down several times in the past without adequate explanation. Those who continue to apply are not keen to speak out because they fear they will be disadvantaged when they make future bids for funding.”

Why did a cafe owner receive a visit from a counter terrorism unit?

Mrs Angry is the publisher of Broken Barnet. In this guest post she describes how a local shopkeeper and parking campaigner received a visit from the counter terrorism squad.

Helen Michael is a cafe owner in North Finchley. As the spokeswoman for local businesses in the area Helen had taken a prominent part in campaigns to fight a new parking scheme, including designing, printing and distributing a poster blaming local Conservative politician Brian Coleman for a number of shops alleged to have closed as a result of the parking changes.

Helen Michael

After a complaint from a political agent, local police visited Helen and pointed out that she had broken the law by failing to publish her details on the poster.

She immediately took steps to amend this oversight, and the police assured her there would be no further action.

But many weeks later towards the end of June Helen was surprised to receive a second visit from two more police officers. These policemen informed her that they were from a special investigations unit at Scotland Yard that dealt with all sorts of things, including counter terrorism.

They wanted to talk to her about the poster, even though she had been told the matter was at an end by local police.

She was obliged to attend a two hour recorded interview at a local station, under caution, asked a bewildering series of questions such as:

  • “Was it just the traders of Barnet involved in the production of this poster?”
  • “How much did it cost to produce the poster?”
  • “Was the cost funded by the local traders?”
  • “Was the poster for and on behalf of the traders, did we discuss it, with whom, what about the pictures? Was it a culmination of ideas or my own?”
  • “If the poster was not an election publication what was the principal reason to produce the poster?”
  • “Was there any political input or intention in production of the poster?”

A brief investigation proved that the two detectives were from SO15, a counter terrorism unit. Continue reading

The 21% of torchbearer places that were allocated outside of public campaigns: 8,000 Holes Part 4

Get the free ebook for the full story: 8,000 Holes: How the 2012 Olympic Torch Relay Lost its Way -

In the fourth part of a serialisation of Help Me Investigate’s first ebook – 8,000 Holes: How the 2012 Olympic Torch Relay Lost its Way we look at what happened to the thousands of torchbearer places that were allocated outside of public campaigns. You can download the book for free – or choose to pay a donation, with all proceeds going to the Brittle Bone Society – at

Part 4: The 21%

Between December 2011 and June 2012 the numbers of torchbearer places being awarded by bodies other than the Presenting Partners and LOCOG increased by a third. The International Olympic Committee‘s share of places saw the biggest change, going up by half – from 71 according to a December press release to 117 six months later, while commercial partners other than the three presenting partners – dozens of companies including Dow Chemical, G4S, Atos and BT – saw their share go up from 678 places to 913. Continue reading

Olympic torch relay missed “youth” target – by over 1,000 places

Olympic torch relay organisers are over 1,000 places short of meeting the promise that over half of Olympic torchbearers would be young people aged 12-24, according to an analysis of data in the official site.

Of just over 7,000 torchbearers published on the site by July 24, only 2,272 – 32% – are under 25. The proportion has remained consistent since details were first published in late May, but even if the other 1,000 torchbearers were under 25, the final proportion would be 40% – still well short of the target set at the relay’s launch.

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A very specific “general” public? How the 2012 Olympic Torch Relay lost its way part 3

Get the free ebook for the full story: 8,000 Holes: How the 2012 Olympic Torch Relay Lost its Way -

In the third part of a serialisation of Help Me Investigate’s first ebook – 8,000 Holes: How the 2012 Olympic Torch Relay Lost its Way we look at the claim that 90% of torchbearer places would be available to the general public. You can download the book for free – or choose to pay a donation, with all proceeds going to the Brittle Bone Society – at

Part 3: A very specific “general” public

Although news reports at the time said that 90% of all torch relay places would be “available to the general public”, a careful reading of LOCOG’s language and figures suggests that this was not entirely accurate. The chief executive of LOCOG was careful to say that places “were made available to the public through a number of channels, including the four public nomination campaigns run by Locog, Coke, Lloyds TSB and Samsung.”

With fewer than three quarters of places available through those four public nomination campaigns, the remainder would be allocated through other channels which restricted their availability to the ‘general’ public to varying degrees. Continue reading

Twitter’s UK general manager nominated to carry Olympic torch by IOC {updated}

Twitter's Tony Wang Olympic Torchbearer tweet

UPDATE: A spokesperson for Twitter says:

“I’m not sure why the nomination paragraph on Tony isn’t on the site. That’s probably a question for LOCOG. Tony wasn’t nominated by a company, he was asked by the IOC to represent Twitter and its role in bringing athletes and fans closer together.”

The general manager of Twitter in the UK got to carry the torch today – and, naturally, tweeted about it too.

It’s not clear why he carried the torch, as Wang not only doesn’t have a nomination story – he is not even listed on the official torch relay website.

Twitter recently announced a partnership with NBCUniversal to “serve as a hub for digital communications” about the Games. Last month the social network closed a satirical account following a request from Locog.

We are awaiting a response from Twitter with more details on the reasons for Tony’s nomination.

Samsung, Locog and the IOC have all invited journalists and media executives to carry torches this year.

H/t Lyra McKee

Who’s running instead of Jack Binstead today?

The following is a short extract from the final chapter of 8,000 Holes: How the 2012 Olympic Torch Relay Lost its Way:

“On the day that Jack’s family flies out, the Olympic torch will be carried by Chai Patel – a former Labour Party donor and now one of the largest donors to the British Olympic Association. Sujith Weerasinghe, Olympics Operations Manager for BP, will carry the torch too, having written his own nomination story. The CEO of the BFI and Samsung’s UK Vice President were listed to carry that day, but as they have since disappeared from the site it’s not clear if they will. Joe Hemani has also disappeared from the site: he was due to carry the torch with the simple nomination story “Joe Hemani is the founder and single shareholder of Westcoast Ltd which was established in 1984.” Westcoast is a technology distribution company. The vice president of Visa Europe runs with a story written by herself, as does the assistant manager of Carphone Warehouse Leeds – it says “Using video technology, I took it upon myself to enhance and personalise the service customers get at Carphone Warehouse and Best Buy Europe.” The head of the company designing the Coca Cola pavilion carries a torch on that day, and while chefs who graduated from Jamie Oliver’s inspirational apprentice programme Fifteen are running – so is the Marketing and Commercial Manager for Jamie Oliver Ltd. And running without any story at all is Paul Eccleston, managing director at techhnology distributor SDG.”

Help Me Investigate interviews Jack Binstead for The Guardian’s Writers Relay

Carol Miers’s interview with wheelchair racer Jack Binstead is published today in The Guardian.

Today is the day that Jack was most likely to have carried the torch, had his nomination by 20 people been successful.

Instead he and his family are flying out of the country. Continue reading