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The Great Debate

from The Great Debate UK:

Why enhanced reputation could be the real legacy for Britain of London 2012

Andrew Hammond is an Associate Partner at Reputation Inc, and formerly a UK Government Special Adviser and Senior Consultant at Oxford Analytica. The opinions expressed are his own.

With London 2012 proving a once-in-a-generation global showcase for Britain, a key uncertainty nonetheless remains over whether a substantial, meaningful legacy can be secured in future years from hosting the games. Given that the official public cost of the Olympics is some 9.3 billion pounds (a figure Parliament believes is nearer 11 billion pounds, and Sky News estimates to be a staggering 24 billion pounds) this is a key question, especially as Britain languishes in a double dip recession.

The two most frequently cited legacies of London 2012 are: firstly, securing long-term success from the regeneration of the Olympic Park and surrounding area; and, secondly, inspiring a new generation of sportsmen and women across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

However, above and beyond this, the Government’s ambition is nothing less than enhancing Britain’s reputation across the globe. The goal of its innovative cross-departmental GREAT campaign, of which the Olympics is the high point to date, is to refresh the brand of the home nations as amongst the top places in the world to visit, live, work, study and do business, with key areas of excellence (as highlighted in the Olympic opening ceremony) including Technology and Innovation, Entrepreneurship, Creativity, Knowledge, Green, Heritage, Sport, Shopping, Music and Countryside.

At a time of continued economic uncertainty, the bottom line is to increase business investment and growth: “to sell Britain on the back of British success” in the words of the Prime Minister. The Government estimates that the ‘London 2012 effect’ will stimulate some 13 billion pounds of benefit to the economy over the next four years, and is seeking to underpin this by hosting a global investment conference and 17 business summits during the Olympics.

Who’d want to host the Olympics?

Londoners are greeting the Olympics with all the enthusiasm of a child awaiting a root canal. The government has warned those unable to book coinciding holidays not to travel anywhere beyond walking distance of home as Communist-style “Olympic lanes” whisk dignitaries past the interminable traffic the Games cause. During the Olympics, London will be run under a curious kind of corporate martial law. Thousands of troops will handle security to make up for private contractor G4S’s staffing “shambles”; missiles have been placed atop public housing; an Orwellian “brand police” is sweeping the city to ensure no businesses other than 11 official sponsors use words like “gold,” “silver,” “bronze” and even “London.”

Putting up with this misery is supposedly justified by the commercial windfall, tourist bonanza and enhanced prestige the Olympics create. One Tube station poster depicts a man who, having identified alternative transport routes, is jauntily reading a newspaper as he whizzes past an escalator logjammed with athletes: The headline is “London 2012 Games a huge success, save British economy.”

But as Wednesday’s woeful economic data confirmed Britain’s slide into a double-dip recession, it’s worth questioning whether hosting the Olympics is worth the $14.5 billion cost. In strict financial terms none ever actually make money. Some host cities have turned profits since Los Angeles was the first to do so in 1984, escaping the crippling public debt incurred by cities like Montreal and Vancouver. But, as a recent report by Goldman Sachs points out, “most countries … have treated the cost of constructing facilities and infrastructure, together with security and other ancillary costs, as being separate from the cost of running the Games themselves.”

from The Great Debate UK:

What can London 2012 learn from Vancouver? Seb Coe answers your questions

OLYMPICS/The 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver were hit at the very start by the tragic death of Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili and for a while the Games struggled to recover, as organisers were faced with problem after problem, from the unseasonably warm weather to transport snarl-ups to scoring problems.

Some even wondered if Vancouver would go on to be called the Worst Games Ever but no one is saying that now, with the action picking up to provide a series of electrifying and heart warming moments while the organisation has settled down.

In fact, Vancouver looks like it will set the bar pretty high for the next Summer Olympics in London in 2012. On Friday, Sebastian Coe, chair of the London 2012 Organising Committee, will be talking to Reuters from the Main Press Centre in Vancouver and will address questions including what London can learn from these Games.

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