London 2012: are the Olympics worth the cost?Feature of the week
With just over 100 days until the opening ceremony, London is finally ready to welcome the world. With rising concerns over the costs of staging the 2012 Olympic Games, what tangible benefits to Londoners can justify the hefty pricetag?
Prime Minister David Cameron has promised this summerʼs Olympics and Paralympics will be the “greatest show on earth”.
International Olympic Committee chief Jacques Rogue gave a glowing report on his final inspection visit before the Games begin in July, stating: “We are happy at the IOC.”
However, much of the British public think the Olympics are not worth the amount of taxpayer money spent. The PM defended the £9.3bn cost, promising the Games would be secure, on time and on budget, and would deliver a lasting sports legacy, despite a scathing report by MPs claiming the Olympics are almost £2billion over-budget.
David Cameron has highlighted the successes of preparing for the Olympics: “We can already see the remarkable regeneration of East London.” One of the most under-developed parts of London has been radically transformed and will continue to benefit after the Games are over; 800 homes are set to be built in the first of five neighbourhoods that will be developed on the Olympic Park site.
London will obviously see a huge boost in tourism this summer, as millions flock to the capital to witness the spectacle. The new Westfield Stratford City shopping complex has already attracted vast numbers to East London, but the the fact is a large mall is detrimental to local shops and businesses.
As the UK emerges from recession, the Olympics have created thousands of much-needed jobs, but the the vast majority of these are short-term. The UKʼs construction industry has particularly benefited, with 98% of work on the Olympic Park going to UK-based companies.
After years of disruption on the Tube, the improvements can finally be seen – most notably the £200million upgrade to Stratford station. There are still doubts as to whether Londonʼs transport system will cope with the influx of passengers this summer.
Londoners fear the cost of running Olympic venues will spiral after the closing ceremony. Mayor Boris Johnson launched his Olympics manifesto today: he promises to make sure “the Olympic legacy does not cost Londoners a penny more on their council tax”.
David Cameron has said that the precedent for the Olympics leaving behind white elephants is not one that will continue in London: “The great historical city has created a legacy blueprint for future Games hosts.”
The blueprint, beyond 2012, includes pledges on lasting economic, regeneration and community benefits after the Games are over. Will it succeed? Only time will tell.
One thing is certain: summer 2012 will definitely be one to remember.