Politicians talk of the Olympics as a shop window in which to sell Britain and maximise the Games' economic benefits for the country.
So they offer plausible reasons why the Government is spending £750,000 to buy tickets for the Games, including 41 top-priced, £2,012 opening ceremony tickets and £26,000-worth of seats for the beach volleyball.
But their self-justifications are not persuasive. As times get harder, it will be more and more difficult to defend anything which remotely smacks of junketing at the expense of the taxpayer.
Nearly two-thirds of the two million people who applied for tickets in the first round ended up empty-handed. So hard were the tickets to come by, that even the relatives of competitors were told they would have to watch their family member in action on the television. This is not the time for freebies for the privileged.