If we really have to have beach volleyball and synchronised swimming in our capital, can we get our architects to make sure that they're staged in style?
I'd be the first to admit that I'm not the world's most avid sports fan, but frankly I think the Olympics is pretty much past it as a sporting spectacle. I mean, who wants to watch Olympic tennis? Or football? Or boxing, for that matter? The competitors' mums? The athletes who are really good at these things are already committed somewhere where the pay is better. And, perhaps I'm missing something, but I'm not sure that the apotheosis of the Olympian dream that is beach volleyball will be made yet more magisterial by being staged in Horse Guards Parade.
But then, it's not about sport, is it? To gauge this country's true attitude to sport, just witness the hundreds of swimming pools that have closed in the past year now that we've run out of playing fields to flog off to housebuilders. No, it's about regeneration, and this is a good thing. Unfortunately, the immovable completion date means that the Olympics is also likely to mean that the whole economy will be held to ransom by the construction industry. And not even the British construction industry at that.
There was a brief spell early in the life of the National Lottery when a number of prestigious cultural projects seemed to come in on time and more or less on budget. Yet now the news from the big cultural projects is not good. For two years it's been Wembley, and now it's BBC Broadcasting House. It's clearly the architect's fault, as neither Lord Foster nor Sir Richard MacCormac really knows the first thing about making buildings that are worth having, do they? This is an activity that should be left to the people who do know, and they are building contractors. However, the Olympic procurement programme comes with a lot of cultural resonance and putting contractors in charge of this sort of thing is like putting farmers in charge of the Countryside.
There is always the chance that winning the bid will be the catalyst for turning the Lea Valley into another Barcelona. It would be hard to imagine any development making it worse. If we can get wonderful new roads, and Tube lines, and houses, oh, and sporting facilities that London does not have already, surely it must be a good thing. I thought the Olympics began seriously to lose its gravitas when someone invented synchronised swimming, but surely even that would be worth watching in a pool designed by Zaha Hadid.
It's not as though the country is short of designers. The problem will be the PFI virus that subsumes design responsibility and seems to have pervaded all recent public procurement. There is plenty of evidence that this is neither a cheaper nor faster method of procurement, and architectural design generally suffers as a result of designers being novated. Yet there is little evidence that anything different is being contemplated.
Even synchronised swimming would be worth watching in a pool designed by Zaha Hadid
What the Olympic Solomon should do is divvy up the projects among the architectural practices of the right size. Architects first, you notice. Any firm of architects would rather build their second or third choice than not build anything at all. All architects know contractors and consultants they are happy to work with. You can then hand out the building work up the same way.
The most fascinating section of Brian Appleyard's biography of Richard Rogers concerns the construction of the Pompidou Centre. This explains how the French government pre-empted a stitch-up by the French construction industry. President Valéry Giscard d'Estaing appointed a retired general of the OAS (the Secret Armed Organisation that fought against Algerian independence) and gave him almost unlimited powers to see that everyone played ball. And after this gentleman ordered that the steelwork contract be let to the German firm Krupps, the local contractors all came to heel.
I'm not sure how firms my size are going to benefit from the additional building work from the £20bn construction bonanza. However, you never know, my quality of life might be improved if someone gets round to fixing the "train describer" board at my local Tube station so people actually know how to get to east London.
Gus Alexander runs his own architectural practice in Clerkenwell, London