As London 2012 draws ever nearer, it certainly seems that the Olympics has a ‘marmite’ status within the UK – love it or hate it, everyone has an opinion.
The greatest grumbles come from London itself. Despite the huge investment in infrastructure and jobs that the capital has seen in the build-up to 2012, it will be hard pushed to accomodate the influx of people into the city, with 325,000 more people flocking to London every day. Many have organised house swaps, holidays and home work to avoid Olympics over the summer, flinching from the footfall that the already heaving city will receive and begrudging the disruption to daily life that the Olympics will bring. Optimists mock the moans of their fellow Londoners, predicting that when the festivity and spirit of the games arrives the city will be swept off its feet with Olympic fever and take the extra crowds and prices in their stride…Although one wonders if this is a somewhat too optimistic account of the response that commuters will have when they struggle to squeeze on the tube alongside the tourists.
The population pressure also sparks fears of security risks that surround the games. Not only does the atmosphere raise the potential threat of strikes – the city has already faced many disruptions due to the underground workers – but also crime rates, protests and even riots. Even more frightening is the risk of terrorism against which the city is preparing itself, with specialist forces seeping into London to ensure that it is fully prepared for any signs of attack. With a security budget of £553m, the growing costs of hosting this year’s Olympics is causing arguably as much unrest as any fears of public safety.
Having said this, an event of such a scale is bound to bring its concerns, and these have failed to overshadow Olympic games around the world in the past. The prestige of bringing the Olympics to London inevitably comes with its risks and costs, but the benefits to the country many argue balance out the drawbacks. Olympic 2012 boss Paul Deighton assured critics in April that he was very confident that the Olympics would generate its £2bn target for revenue from tickets, merchanise and private sector sales, hoping to raise faith in the positive impact that this summer’s games will have on the country and economy. However with the additional investment that has occurred since Olympic planning has begun, Sky Sports recently claimed that the overall cost to the country of London 2012 is as high as £24bn. Many therefore struggle to see how the UK will turn revenue generated over the summer into a long lasting impact upon the economy, especially in light of the double dip recession that the country is currently experiencing. Moody’s confirmed this assessment only a few days ago, saying that ‘the Games are unlikely to provide a substantial macroeconomic boost to the UK during 2012,’ and that the main revenues will be directed towards its sponsors such as Coca-Cola.
Perhaps the greatest counter to such negativity is the benefit to the UK which cannot be measured by GDP, security risks or overcrowding; the cultural impact of the London 2012 Olympics. The huge boost in private investment has already made an impact upon the nation; Olympic sponsors Cadbury’s have seen a huge positive reaction to their ‘Spots vs Stripes’ games and activities, whilst Coca-Cola’s ‘Move to the Beat’ has brought a festival feel to the Olympic fever. It is also expected that during the summer that the influence and inspiration of the London Olympics which is being so highly publicised nation-wide will be a huge boost in getting children and teenagers into sports, which would have a long term impact on the UK’s public health as well as a positive effect on bringing communities together.
It would seem that there is plenty of fuel to drive the engine of those critics who are against the London Olympics, and indeed such as grand and expensive event is sure to have its downsides – especially during bad economic times. But like it or not, London is hosting the games this summer. And it we’re going to do it, surely we have to do it properly; after all, the world’s eyes will be on our capital and we want to give them something to talk about for all the right reasons. So with under 100 days to go until the biggest national event of the century so far, it is time for the nation to put aside its reservations and adopt an embracing spirit towards the London Olympics. It really is a once in a lifetime opportunity for the UK.