Will London 2012 be a Success?

Last Updated Sep 5, 2008 9:42 AM EDT

2012parody1.jpg Britons are excited about the prospect of London 2012, but are afraid the government will botch the project.

Opinion Research's poll of 2,000 adults before and after the Beijing Olympics has found that the majority are more excited as a result of the UK's medal haul at Beijing. But 60 per cent admit this doesn't make them any more confident about the government's ability to manage the 2012 Olympics.

Only 11 per cent believe the government's up to the job, with the biggest concern being the budget overruns -- only 12 per cent reckon it will come in on budget or within 10 per cent.

Post-Beijing, there's been a slight rise in the number of people who think the 2012 games will enhance the UK's reputation. But it's still not very many -- 21 per cent.

Nearly one-third doubt London 2012 will have any positive, long-term effect on the British economy. They believe the money would be better spent on transport, infrastructure projects and the NHS.

The Olympics spell good news for contractors and will develop transport and infrastructure in an under-served area of London.

But whether this specific and localised infrastructure development, tourist influx and job creation outweigh the disruption and sheer expense will no doubt be a debate that rages right up until the torch is lit in London.

Statistics following the fortunes of economies post-Olympics vary. Fears that China would slip into a post-games slump appear to be unfounded so far, but other fast-growth nations suffered a post-Olympic slump.

An HSBC analysis found that Japan's economic growth slowed from a pre-games high of 11.7 per cent in 1964 to 5.8 per cent in 1965. Likewise, South Korea's growth rate dropped from 11.3 per cent in 1988 to 6.4 per cent in 1987. The issue is different in the UK, though, where the economy's predicted to slide into recession.

In Sydney, tourism after the 2000 Olympics grew less than in Australia as a whole, according to a separate study by the Centre of Policy Studies at Monash University, Australia.

The report's authors concluded the Sydney Olympics generated a net consumption loss of AU$2.1bn. Likewise, Greece, which hosted the Games in 2004, is losing out to neighbouring Turkey in the tourist stakes. A European Tour Operators Assocation study claims that there appears to be "little evidence of any benefit to tourism of hosting the Olympic Games, and considerable evidence of damage".

But how much impact the Games should have on tourism or GDP growth is questionable. And on the other side of the argument is Manchester's success in hosting the 2002 Commonwealth Games. Estimates that the city would gain from the creation of almost 1,000 new jobs fell short of the true gains -- 2,400 jobs.

Whether 2012 is a success depends on how you measure it -- and how you view the project in the first place.

As for not finishing on time, it's a well-founded worry -- Wembley immediately springs to mind. But if UK firm Arup can do it in Beijing, surely we can do it here... can't we?

What do you think? Is London 2012 a waste of resources or a great opportunity for UK businesses?

(Image by Hiro Sheridan, CC2.0)