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Tuesday, April 03, 2007

A Visit To Wembley Stadium

It's great having time off at Easter and being able to take your children out to see the sights of the capital.

A new stadium to make our country proudA few days ago I visited Highgate cemetery by accident, after getting lost looking for the car park at London Zoo.

So when this time I decided to take Augustus to see the new Wembley Stadium I was careful to take a map with me so I wouldn't get lost again. I must confess I was a bit surprised to discover that the new building was a mile or so away from the site of the (now demolished) original, as I had mistakenly thought it was being rebuilt on the same site. Still, Neasden's not far away and it looks like a much better location for access on match days.

I was very impressed by the edifice which greeted us.

I knew nothing had been spared in constructing a majestic new home for England's number one sport, but even I was surprised to see towering spires, gold leaf, marble, limestone and alabaster everywhere. Intrigued to discover more about the building, I found a helpful man by the name of Mr Jitu Patel, who explained how the new Wembley had been constructed so opulently within a total budget of just £138.96, all of which had been donated by football worshippers. According to Mr Patel, things were not going well under the original project manager, Mr Jagdeesh Singh, but once an injunction had been served on "the trouble-maker", the project was quickly put back on schedule.

Augustus was keen to interrogate Mr. Patel about the economics of the stadium and managed to extract the following information (albeit after threatening the poor man with "poo poo"). Built on 1.5 acres of prime development land in north-west London, the new stadium incorporates:
With special lighting for night-time fixtures

  • 990m3 (2,828 tonnes) of cream-coloured Bulgarian limestone,
  • 700m3 (2,000 tonnes) of white Italian and Indian marble,
  • 43m3 (127 tonnes) of Indian granite,
  • 92 farmed Burmese teak trees (I didn't know they still had trees in Myanmar),
  • 226 English oak trees (replanted in the Outer Hebrides on a 10-for-1 basis),
  • 194 concrete piles;
and its construction involved:
  • 1,695 craftsmen (many of whom volunteered their services entirely free of charge, after nothing more than the very gentlest encouragement),
  • 10,000 football fans on community service orders,
  • 1 supermodel called Naomi (equipped with a mop),
  • 12,000,000 part time volunteers on a youth work experience scheme, all of whom were over the age of 18, even though admittedly quite a few of them did look a lot younger.
Wow. You learn something every day. Augustus and I were very impressed and I'm looking forward to taking my son to a home international in Neasden next season.


ilikeakehurstfanclub said...

My dearest Luke,

I sincerely hope you enjoyed your little visit to the Wembley Stadium. Lord Coe was so impressed by the work of Shri Vallabh Nidhi – UK (Registered Charity Number 277833) – the body that built the Stadium that he
visited it recently
and got some ideas on how to accomplish the London 2012 project and come in well under budget! The Charity Commission and Inland Revenue have shown great interest too.

However, given the controversy that still surrounds this project you would be well advised to steer well clear for the moment (as would Lord Coe if his PR advisors were doing their job properly). Take a quick look at this link to see how former Home Office Paul Boateng nearly landed us up sh** creek without a paddle (yet again). Apparently Boateng regularly intervened to help directors of the company building the Stadium to overcome Foreign Office objections and obtain visas to bring workers from India to the UK. This firm, Shrico, was paying its employees 'slave labour' rates of as little as 30p an hour - £3.40 less than the national minimum wage - and well below the going rate of £22.00 an hour for a skilled stonemason here in the UK.

One disgruntled worker - who was sacked from the Stadium's construction site - went to an Employment Tribunal and was awarded £31,464 – the maximum possible.
Following this about eleven labourers forced to work on the Stadium - the largest outside India - for as little as 30p an hour won back payment totalling £110,000
after the Inland Revenue warned their employer - Shrico - it was breaking the law.

Thankfully, Shrico's chairman (the late Nalinikant Pandya) held no hard feelings - we even awarded him an MBE.

I think the whole thing is ironic really. Those poor "volunteers" who were living in a cold Nissan hut in Ealing Road, Wembley and earning 30 pence an hour - at least managed to get a free look-in to the Stadium; a look-in that many of their kith and kin might well have been discouraged from taking. However, things are looking up ... perhaps ...

In a landmark ruling, the Orissa High Court in India has legislated that the 250 million Dalits – ‘outcastes’ from the traditional Hindu caste system – could no longer be banned from entering any Hindu temple. They still suffer bonded labour, discrimination, rape, sexual slavery, beatings and killings though.

Our Australian cousins have experienced similar difficulty keeping bonded labour quiet. Stone cutters working on a Hindu Temple in Canberra were recently being paid A$45 per month, with another $100 being sent home to India. They were not allowed to leave the worksite without permission and were receiving just one rostered day off each fortnight. With such a small amount of disposable income, I reckon they were better off having only a tiny bit of free
time in which to spend it. Don't you agree?

Generally, however, we've blotted our copy book in that part of town. We promised them ten million smackeroos to help build the first Hindu "faith-based" school in the UK. Then came the disastrous news that its spiritual head, was tied up in the centre of a child abuse scandal. Can't we send Kelly in there to sort them out?

For that matter, can't we keep Coe from putting his foot in it, at least for just a bit longer?

Pip pip!


Luke Akehurst said...

Thanks for all that, ilikeakehurstfanclub, even though I've got no idea what any of it is about. I'm sure that the history of Wembley Stadium construction will be of interest to some people, but not really to me. I'm just looking forward to Augustus playing there one day and scoring the winning goal against Brazil (or maybe India).

Anonymous said...

Next thing you will tell us that other Labour MPs assisted all this against the advice of the Home Office.mselves I wonder how many MBEs have been handed out to the perpetrators

Silversprite said...

Hello from Berneray, an island (population 130) in the Outer Hebrides. NOW I know why my hoose is suddenly surrounded by an oak forest...

wan kin (socialist) said...

Funny that! Seb Coe visited the "Wembley Stadium" recently and said: "I think one of the lessons we have also learnt tonight is that while we need 70,000 volunteers in 2012, I think we understand, when we come to your temple this evening, that we would not be standing marvelling at the spectacular architecture and the beautiful creations around us, had it not been for the volunteers that worked within such a professional structure to create something so beautiful in two years.”

I hope the posting from the sycophantic iLikeAkehurstFanClub bears no connection to the letter from junior partners of Sue, Grabbit and Run (Cease, Desist & Partners) to the scurrilous tree-hugging Clissold Leisure anarchists.

wan kin (socialist) said...

OK - I can't do hyperlinks properly. Here is the letter.

Luke Akehurst said...

I still don't understand, Wan King (bye the way, are you perchance related to Burger King?).

The letter you have attached is about some place called Neasden Temple, whereas my article is about Wembley Stadium. Shurely shome mishtake?

wan kin (socialist) said...

Oops! Of course, silly me. My mishtake. Neither the Swaminarayan Hindu Mission nor BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir have ever been associated with any claims made in connection with below minimum wages paid to employees during the construction of the Wembley Stadium. (Do try harder, Seb Coe.)

And yes, I am related to Burger King but, unlike some fast food outlets and political figures I could mention, I am not known for my whoppers.