Olympics legacy: Was it all worth it? It’s obvious
James Ashton reflects on London 2012 a year on
To the critics who moaned about the cost and disruption of hosting the Games in London, I say: would you rather the event had taken place in Paris or Berlin?
The grumblers quietened as the athletes took the stage but have found their voice again as the Olympic anniversary nears and matters of legacy return to the agenda. Yet it seems clear to me that an event a decade in the planning is hardly going to have proved its worth in pure pounds and pence less than 12 months after the bandwagon rolled on to Rio.
Better to take the Olympic opportunity at face value. The Games marketed London to the world in a way that no series of trade missions could have managed. To some would-be investors, they reinforced what they already knew about the capital. For others, it was an opportunity to debunk myths that British industry was outmoded and losing the global race.
It was a chance to showcase what we are good at — high-end manufacturing, technology, education and the creative industries — and polishing up what Made in Britain means today. To remind doubters of the surprising details such as that Britain’s car industry has been rebuilt — albeit in foreign hands — to the point that we are once again a net exporter of cars, a feat last achieved 35 years ago.
All of this sounds like soft, feelgood stuff, but it is vital if global companies, most who only need a single European base, are going to recruit workers and make investment here.
Separately, if we don’t capitalise on the extra tourism interest, the Government only has itself to blame. Rising air passenger duty and a muddled visa regime means that high-spending Chinese travellers are still far more likely to visit Germany or France than Britain.
Most important, though, is to bear in mind that the Olympics are not a panacea for economic growth. The Games are history , no matter how hard politicians try to keep them alive. There is still much work to be done to ensure that businesses capitalise on their legacy.
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