Why the Olympics will be fantastic for the United Kingdom
The London 2012 Olympics are finally here (women’s football began yesterday), with the opening ceremony to take place tomorrow evening after seven long years of planning for LOCOG and the various other stakeholders involved. The excitement is growing within the UK amongst us Britons – a few months ago there were far louder cries of ‘we don’t care’ from many people here – but that seems to have given way to excitement and support amongst the majority of the British people as preparations have stepped up in the past couple of weeks. Despite what some would tell you; the Olympics will be fantastic for the UK.
A YouGov poll early this year found that the majority of British people were ‘disinterested’ in the Games, saying that it would have ‘little positive impact’ upon them. There have of course been even more controversies in recent weeks: The abject failure of G4S to provide sufficient security personnel just days and weeks before the opening ceremony has been a humiliation for the entire event around the world, not least here in the UK – where a pathetic display by G4S’ Chief Executive in front of MPs only served to deepen the public anger.
More recently, ‘Games Lanes’ have paved the way as an ideal excuse for criticism by London commuters on their daily flock into the City. And last night at Hampden Park in Glasgow, a women’s football match between North Korea and Colombia was postponed for over an hour after the North’s fury as the flag of their arch enemies – South Korea – was displayed on a scoreboard next to a players name.
In 2005, when the London bid was joyously successful; millions across the country celebrated and rejoiced at the fact that the biggest event in the world would be coming to our shores. But then we were in a ‘boom period’, after all. Since then, the UK has plummeted financially; a deep double-dip recession has caused misery for millions of ‘ordinary people’ and just yesterday the Office for National Statistics dealt another hefty blow to Chancellor George Osbourne, by revealing that our GDP decreased by a further 0.7% in the most recent quarter; far worse than anyone predicted. The mood of the British has been downtrodden for the past four years or so. The Diamond Jubilee celebrations provided a brief relief, but with scandals ranging from phone hacking to Libor, our politicians continuing to argue about pointless issues such as Lords reform and a continuing recession; who would blame us for feeling the gloom?
Luckily, the Olympics is upon us. The feeling of excitement in London is great; while there are still a fair amount of locals who see the Games as a ‘pain’, many are just about coming around to the idea. Sporting successes in the past month like Andy Murray and Bradley Wiggins have given us enhanced pride in our sporting superstars, and we are rightfully confident that we can replicate our 4th place finish on the medals table in 2008.
There is a carnival atmosphere throughout the streets of London – hundreds of thousands of tourists from every corner of the globe have arrived and are here for the greatest party of them all. And alas, the weather has joined them. After months and months of downpours and the wettest period in british history, these Olympics are finally starting to look like ‘Summer’ ones rather than their winter counterpart after soaring temperatures of 32(C) yesterday. There is an air of positivity, and air of happiness and joy that the eyes of the world are on this great city once more. We’re beginning to look past the security failures, the huge public cost and all the other negativity stories – at least for a couple of weeks.
You don’t have to be a genius to realise that these Games will be massively beneficial to both London and the wider UK. After those hugely disappointing GDP figures, the next quarter will be far more successful for the Chancellor; growth of between 0.5 and 1.0% has been predicted – and that will be completely down to the Olympics and the thousands of revellers spending their cash here in Britain. Financially, the Games will almost definitely bring in more money to the pot than it cost us to host the event – a promise made by the likes of Boris Johnson for years.
While economically the Games will eventually make sense, they will also prove beneficial in dozens of other ways. Five years ago, the site of the Olympic park was wasteland; it was a ‘mountain of dumped fridges’ – in the words of Lord Coe. Now the space has been transformed into the most spectacular of sporting zones – with impressive stadia, huge sculptures such as the Orbit tower, landscaped gardens and rivers, new permanent facilities like one of Europe’s largest shopping center’s, an Olympic village that will be converted into affordable housing in the future and much more. Apologies for sounding like a salesperson or a Government Minister, but I really do feel strongly that the Olympic park will be the catalyst for further regeneration of this previously (and still) deprived area of London. The East End has been the overlooked blemish of the city for decades.
As Thomas Aldred recently wrote, this part of London is beginning to thrive; ‘Silicon Roundabout’ is growing in the area, and the Olympics could serve to be the spark plug for further investment in such industries in the east, which is quickly becoming the cutting edge, fashionable and modern epicenter of this great city.
But the benefits are not solely concentrated in the redeveloped East End, or indeed London. Just this week on the regional news in the East of England, I noticed that several hundred Chinese businessmen and women had arrived in Cambridgeshire to discuss potential links with technology-based companies in the county. The reporter said the event was ‘due to the Olympics’. Very true.
The next few weeks are about broadcasting the United Kingdom to the world as an advanced, technologically-developed, cutting edge country fit for the 21st century; ready to compete with the emerging markets and hold our own. Coupled with Britain’s biggest ever international advertising campaign, this is perhaps the UK’s biggest chance for many decades to promulgate the capability and greatness of Great Britain. The Olympics will be fantastic for the United Kingdom; both here and abroad. And (mostly) the British people are finally beginning to realise this as the opening ceremony draws closer.