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Monday, May 14, 2007

Going for gold

We have already established that the cost of the London Olympics has quadrupled to £9.3 billion. In addition it has been claimed that charities and sports bodies in Wales could lose over £24 million as a result of money being top-sliced from the lottery to pay for the event.

In the circumstances one would look for some clear benefits from this expenditure, not just for London but for the rest of the country as well. Alas, it seems that this is not going to be the case. A report in this morning's Daily Telegraph tells us that the 2012 Olympics will struggle to bring the predicted boom in jobs, sport and housing:

The report for the Greater London Assembly is the latest setback for the Games, whose costs have quadrupled to £9.3 billion.

Researchers analysed the impact of events on Athens, Sydney, Atlanta and Barcelona. They found venues "struggled to make their mark" in improving employment and sports participation.

The authors of the report, Prof Gavin Poynter and Dr Iain MacRury, based at the University of East London, said Greece lost 70,000 jobs just after the 2004 Games.

Improvement in sports participation was "mixed, at best", with Sydney experiencing small increases in seven Olympic sports, but a decline in nine.

The report goes on to say that plans for urban renewal, including 40,000 new homes, must "reflect the needs" of residents and not replicate the "significant bad feeling" in Atlanta where some neighbourhoods lost housing to the Olympics development.

Even in Barcelona, the most successful of the four cities, infrastructure improvements mainly benefited international residents and property investors.

All the venues studied ran the risk of creating "white elephant" arenas which officials struggled to find a use for.

Much as we will enjoy the prestige of hosting the Olympics there is clearly a lot more work needed if London and the UK is to reap even half of the benefits predicted and if good causes are not to lose out as a consequence.

Hat Tip: Tim Worstall
I find it hard to care that charities and sports bodies are losing money - tax payer's money shouldn't be going to them anyway - it just makes them extensions of government. Instead we should be lowering taxes and let people spend their money on charities if they wish to.

As for the mess that is the Olympics - as a Londoner I resent paying extra taxes for it. If money is being taken from tax payers elsewhere in the country to pay for it - they have a legitimate grievance as well.

The benefits were overstated. The costs were deliberately understated. The main benefit as far as the politicians were concerned was personal prestige.
In terms of the good causes it is not taxpayers' money Tristan but lottery money.
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