Later this month London opens it’s doors for the 2012 Olympics – a games that has been shrouded in controversy since it beat Paris in 2005 to host the biggest sporting festival in the world.
For the past 7 years people have rushed to claim that for a variety of reasons we shouldn’t be hosting the games. Some arguments have been frankly ridiculous such as the feeling we will embarrass ourselves as host nation because we won’t win enough medals – unlike the sporting powerhouses Greece in 2004? Others argue that the budget (up to an eye-watering £9.3billion) would be better spent on MP’s expenses reducing the deficit and helping Britain climb out of the biggest economic crisis in generations. Unfortunately this doesn’t take into account that London won the 2012 games in a time of huge prosperity. Despite whopping salaries, nobody (for reasons yet to be explained to me) saw the recession coming or I’m sure we wouldn’t have bid for the Olympics. Having won the bid, you can’t just walk away…
So we make the best of what we can. And there are certain elements that the negative sport-haters are always too happy to gloss over.
Could the money have been spent better elsewhere? Yes. But equally we could make better savings by slashing the number of people in the civil service, pulling out of Europe, getting rid of the red tape that strangles businesses, deporting Bob Crowe, clamping down on benefits or cutting immigration. In short, money can always be better spent elsewhere.
But you can’t look at the £9.3billion spent and not consider potential benefits.
Would the East End of London have had such a monumental, and long overdue, face-lift if the Olympics were not going to be held there? I doubt it, and even so it would have cost a vast amount of money. Now they have some of the best sports facilities in the world on their doorstep, a mass of affordable housing post-games once the athlete’s village is converted, a huge new shopping centre, incredible transport links and the potential for new business investors to see the area first hand during the games. Not a bad return for that often overlooked part of London.
The ‘London Legacy’ is a vague term, but if at a time of unprecedented obesity having a 17 day sports event on your back doorstep with wall-to-wall coverage on TV and radio doesn’t inspire people to get off the sofa and into an activity like football, athletics, swimming, boxing, cycling or tennis then nothing will. And if nothing will do it then people will get fatter. Fact. So by my logic some of the £9.3billion will be recouped by an NHS that spends 10% of it’s budget on diabetes because fat little children think weightlifting is actually just standing up.
Equally what better way to build community spirit than by getting involved in a local team? Most of my best mates play for at least one of the two football teams I play for. Now I’m not a subscriber to the opinion that the UK riots of last summer were to do with a breakdown in community – I believe it was all done by a bunch of lowlife scumbags – but if you are then the thought of the community spirit being re-kindled through a few matches of doubles on the local courts should make you go all warm and gooey inside.
And whilst we talk community spirit and money spent and recouped; the Olympics are a fantastic way to increase tourism. Every airport in the city will increase their passengers and revenue, as will all train companies operating in and out of London. Hotels and bed and breakfasts seem to be doing rather well and tourists love to spend money on things you and I wouldn’t. Already the increased revenue stream is a boost to the economy. An economy which the nay-sayers claim will take a hit as people work from home – yes people will, but mainly in the civil service with their newly planned three day weeks over the summer. Another argument (and one for a different day) that this sprawling public sector can save the most money for the economy by being gutted like a fish. Private businesses will do just fine and work around it because they have to.
Are we going to embarrass ourselves with our medal haul? No. We came 4th in the table last time and we are stronger this time around.
Is it going to be a lot of fun? Yes. Even if you hate sport there are music events, parties and cultural events happening around the games to make the most of the public footfall. Check out Heineken House or go to a Brazilian bar when they win the beach volleyball. It will be a 17 day party if you want it to be.
Why does everything we normally have to spend money on have to be so boring? Just for once let’s stop thinking about how many speed bumps we could build for £9.3billion or how many times Ed Balls could afford to flip his second home.
Instead, put your feet up and grab a beer from the fridge. Turn on the TV and cheer on our athletes as they make history. Witness world records being broken and legends being made. Definately check our the gorgeous Jessica Ennis in the heptathlon. Enjoy the spectacle because it is the only time we will see the games in our country in our lifetime. Basically stop moaning and be proud of London pulling off the biggest event in the world.
Just maybe go to the pub for the opening ceremony because it’s rubbish every year.