Run, the Olympics are coming!

Marketplace Staff Aug 25, 2008

Run, the Olympics are coming!

Marketplace Staff Aug 25, 2008


Stacey Vanek-Smith: Hotels in Beijing are emptying out as the Olympics draw to a close. The Games have been widely considered a huge success, both for China and for NBC. It’s also been the first Olympics with a major Web presence — served up more than a billion pages to end more than 70 million video streams. The popularity of the site will likely make the digital rights a big deal in next year’s bidding for the 2014 and 2016 games.

Before then, in 2012 though, the next summer games will take place in London. And, of course, China is a big act to follow. Not such good timing, then, that the city’s mayor, Boris Johnson, has pledged to rein in the budget. But some Londoners are already wondering whether the payoff will be worth the price. Christopher Werth has more from the British capital.

Christopher Werth: Already, the bulldozers are roaring away in London. The clock is ticking for 2012, and the meter is running.

Bob Cotton is chairman of the Tourism Alliance. He says the Olympics are great opportunity, but the official price tag for hosting the games has had a funny way of going up and up.

Bob Cotton: Nine billion pounds, 10 billion pounds, 12 billion pounds, who knows what the real figure is.

At last count, the budget was already four times the original estimate. And that has some Londoners questioning whether officials also miscalculated the 2.2 billion pounds the games are predicted to generate in tourism.

Tom Jenkins is with the European Tour Operators Association. He says that hosting the games isn’t the big pay day it’s cracked up to be.

Tom Jenkins: It’s a party. For goodness sake we’ve got to have a good party if we’re spending 10 billion pounds on it, But after the party you clean up, you pay the bills, you get on with your life. Stop saying ahh, there’s going to be some benefit from hosting this event, because there isn’t.

Jenkins sites a report comparing previous host cities that shows the Olympics actually hurt tourism. It scares people a way. So instead of saying:

Cotton: Come to London in 2012 . . .

Vacationers are feeling more like:

Cotton: It’s going to be crowded, it’s going to expensive, this isn’t the year to go to that city.

The effects can last for up to two years after the games. Beijing already felt the pinch. Hotels there were much emptier than expected.

And Cotton says the industry has to think bigger. For him, the Olympics are about more than just London. It’s about advertising the brand of Britain while the world is watching.

Cotton: There are going to about 19,000 journalists. They don’t want to cover the games for 20 days solid. What you want to do is find things for those journalists to do and write positive stories about every aspect of British life that might appeal to a future tourist.

He says that could mean anything from hiking in the mountains to surfing off the coast of Cornwall. You know, I’ve always wanted to hang 10.

In London, I’m Christopher Werth for Marketplace.

There’s a lot happening in the world.  Through it all, Marketplace is here for you. 

You rely on Marketplace to break down the world’s events and tell you how it affects you in a fact-based, approachable way. We rely on your financial support to keep making that possible. 

Your donation today powers the independent journalism that you rely on. For just $5/month, you can help sustain Marketplace so we can keep reporting on the things that matter to you.  

Need some Econ 101?

Our new Marketplace Crash Course is here to help. Sign-up for free, learn at your own pace.