The first social media Olympics: the highlights

Gymnasts being superhuman in handy GIF form.

This has been the first mass social media games. We’ve seen the dark side, with the Tom Daley troll incident, but you’d have to say the overall effect has been pretty positive. The public have been able to send the athletes untold numbers of supportive messages, I’ve been able to tell Ian Thorpe I love him at least five times a day, and above all, there’s been some really great Olympics-related stuff shared around.

Here’s a compilation of all the odds and ends I’ve not been able to include this week. Some will be old hat, some won’t...enjoy.

Excellent collection of games photos.

New Zealand’s goalkeeper has a VERY bad day.

Extreme volleyball skills.

What would the Olympics be like if everyone could take as many drugs as they wanted?

The compelling story of Gabby Douglas, the first African American woman to win all-around gold in gymnastics.

The aftermath of Ryan Campbell’s efforts in the rowing make for staggering viewing.

The Olympic score cards turn innocent scenes into something, well, less innocent.

Gymnasts being superhuman in handy GIF form.

So your brothers want an Olympic ticket. How do you settle it?

Katarina Johnson-Thompson has a wonderful Twitter bio. So does Usain Bolt, for that matter.

Ryan Lochte special: he’s very, very, very bad at interviews but he has a great dog and oh – that’s just nasty.

Funny name corner: someone from Mean Girls is competing. And so is Quentin Bigot. Whom I’m told bears no relation to this man.

The less said about this photo the better.

BoJo making an arse of himself, take two.

Nike advert: not quite an Olympic link, but great nevertheless.

There’s really only one way to display your Gold medal.

Yaping Deng – table tennis champ and all round impressive woman.

Which film star inspired Chris Hoy to cycle?

Granada's swimming coach Holly Bonewit-Cron talks to her father in the US using a tablet computer in the Olympic Village. Photograph: Getty Images.

Alan White's work has appeared in the Observer, Times, Private Eye, The National and the TLS. As John Heale, he is the author of One Blood: Inside Britain's Gang Culture.

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The tale of Battersea power station shows how affordable housing is lost

Initially, the developers promised 636 affordable homes. Now, they have reduced the number to 386. 

It’s the most predictable trick in the big book of property development. A developer signs an agreement with a local council promising to provide a barely acceptable level of barely affordable housing, then slashes these commitments at the first, second and third signs of trouble. It’s happened all over the country, from Hastings to Cumbria. But it happens most often in London, and most recently of all at Battersea power station, the Thames landmark and long-time London ruin which I wrote about in my 2016 book, Up In Smoke: The Failed Dreams of Battersea Power Station. For decades, the power station was one of London’s most popular buildings but now it represents some of the most depressing aspects of the capital’s attempts at regeneration. Almost in shame, the building itself has started to disappear from view behind a curtain of ugly gold-and-glass apartments aimed squarely at the international rich. The Battersea power station development is costing around £9bn. There will be around 4,200 flats, an office for Apple and a new Tube station. But only 386 of the new flats will be considered affordable

What makes the Battersea power station development worse is the developer’s argument for why there are so few affordable homes, which runs something like this. The bottom is falling out of the luxury homes market because too many are being built, which means developers can no longer afford to build the sort of homes that people actually want. It’s yet another sign of the failure of the housing market to provide what is most needed. But it also highlights the delusion of politicians who still seem to believe that property developers are going to provide the answers to one of the most pressing problems in politics.

A Malaysian consortium acquired the power station in 2012 and initially promised to build 517 affordable units, which then rose to 636. This was pretty meagre, but with four developers having already failed to develop the site, it was enough to satisfy Wandsworth council. By the time I wrote Up In Smoke, this had been reduced back to 565 units – around 15 per cent of the total number of new flats. Now the developers want to build only 386 affordable homes – around 9 per cent of the final residential offering, which includes expensive flats bought by the likes of Sting and Bear Grylls. 

The developers say this is because of escalating costs and the technical challenges of restoring the power station – but it’s also the case that the entire Nine Elms area between Battersea and Vauxhall is experiencing a glut of similar property, which is driving down prices. They want to focus instead on paying for the new Northern Line extension that joins the power station to Kennington. The slashing of affordable housing can be done without need for a new planning application or public consultation by using a “deed of variation”. It also means Mayor Sadiq Khan can’t do much more than write to Wandsworth urging the council to reject the new scheme. There’s little chance of that. Conservative Wandsworth has been committed to a developer-led solution to the power station for three decades and in that time has perfected the art of rolling over, despite several excruciating, and occasionally hilarious, disappointments.

The Battersea power station situation also highlights the sophistry developers will use to excuse any decision. When I interviewed Rob Tincknell, the developer’s chief executive, in 2014, he boasted it was the developer’s commitment to paying for the Northern Line extension (NLE) that was allowing the already limited amount of affordable housing to be built in the first place. Without the NLE, he insisted, they would never be able to build this number of affordable units. “The important point to note is that the NLE project allows the development density in the district of Nine Elms to nearly double,” he said. “Therefore, without the NLE the density at Battersea would be about half and even if there was a higher level of affordable, say 30 per cent, it would be a percentage of a lower figure and therefore the city wouldn’t get any more affordable than they do now.”

Now the argument is reversed. Because the developer has to pay for the transport infrastructure, they can’t afford to build as much affordable housing. Smart hey?

It’s not entirely hopeless. Wandsworth may yet reject the plan, while the developers say they hope to restore the missing 250 units at the end of the build.

But I wouldn’t hold your breath.

This is a version of a blog post which originally appeared here.

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