Brits worry if cost of Olympics is worth it

The 2012 Olympic Games begin in London on Friday, but already a venerable Olympic sport is well underway: The Brits are arguing about the costs and benefits of an event which has so far set them back at least $15 billion.

Stacey Vanek Smith: The 2012 Olympic Games begin in London on Friday, but already a venerable Olympic sport is underway: The Brits are arguing about the costs and benefits of the event, which set them back at least $15 billion so far.

From the British capital, Stephen Beard has that story.


Stephen Beard: It was seven years ago that the head of the Olympics broke the news.

Jacques Rogge: The Games of the 30th Olympiad in 2012 are awarded to the city of London!

The Brits were ecstatic. But seven years on -- and now mired in recession -- the U.K.'s enthusiasm has waned. And that's why Prime Minister David Cameron is stressing the financial benefit of hosting the Games.

David Cameron: They should be great for our economy. We shouldn't see them as some sort of expensive luxury in tough times.

He says the Olympics will pump $20 billion into the British economy. Chris Daniels of Lloyds Bank, which is one of the sponsors, says that figure is likely to be $25 billion.

Chris Daniels: That comes from construction, from tourism, from new jobs created and from spending on the Games.

But hang on a minute! Construction?

One lonely digger scratching the earth in a corner of the Olympic Park this week. Colin Ellis of Moody's says the economic boost from construction has come and gone.

Colin Ellis: The stadium is built. The Park is ready. And that support which had been seen to U.K. construction firms in the run-up to the Olympics has probably been waning for some time now.

And he doubts there'll be a real boost to tourism, since many non-Olympic visitors may give London a miss this year.

Muse's "Survival": I'm going to win, yes, I'm going to win.

In tune with their official song, Olympic organizers claim London will be the biggest winner from the Games. A rundown part of town has been regenerated. And then says Chris Daniels of Lloyds Bank there's the feel-good factor.

Daniels: Which is roughly equivalent to around $200 in everyone's pocket for just being proud of having the Games in London.

But Londoners love to gripe. So even those who oppose the Olympics should get their money's worth moaning about the Games.

In London, I'm Stephen Beard for Marketplace.

About the author

Stephen Beard is the European bureau chief and provides daily coverage of Europe’s business and economic developments for the entire Marketplace portfolio.

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