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The big question: is the Olympic Games a waste of money?



12 Jan, 2012

Five weeks, 15,000 athletes, 37 competition venues, 10.8m tickets, and that's before even mentioning beach volleyball on Horseguards' Parade. All this at a cost of £9.3bn and on your "doorstep" in less that 200 days.

The Olympics will finally roll into town and Britain will be able to prove she is a country worthy of hosting the greatest event on earth.

But is it too high a price to pay?

David Cameron says that it will bring a £1bn boost for British businesses, see an extra four million visitors to Britain in four years and that, most importantly, it will leave a sporting legacy for generations to enjoy.

However, staging the Olympics has left other countries with debt and been of little benefit. The European Tour Operators Association says there is "little evidence of any benefit to tourism of hosting an Olympic Games and considerable evidence of damage."

This weeks' big question: is the Olympic Games a waste of money?

Zoe: It will provide inspiration to a new generation of sportsmen and women

Hosting the greatest event on earth a waste of money? Noooo.

In less than 200 days now the eyes of the world will be on Britain as 15,000 athletes, representing 200 countries go head to head to take Olympic glory. How amazingly, fantastically, impressively exciting.

There are those who will harumph "aaah but we will make a right mess of it as usual", "taxpayers' money going down the swanee", "traffic'll be a nightmare". But this is a once-in-a generation event. Not since 1948 have we had the Olympics in this country and we won't see such sporting razzmatazz again in a hurry. (Think those World Cup hopes are well and truly dashed).

Yes I know that it will cost £9.3bn. Yes I know there's a plethora of studies saying it will not save the economy. In comparison the £1bn in games-related business it will create and the extra four million tourists in four years seem like small beer. But hosting the Olympics is not really something to be judged on a cash-return basis alone.

The inspiration it will provide to a new generation of sportsmen and women should not be under estimated. A whole raft of children spellbound by watching Wiggins, Hoy, Cavendish take gold on British soil; encouraged to get on their bikes and have a few dreams and goals.

It may help us restore a little bit of pride in being British. We do excellent medal hopes - cycling, triathlon, rowing, athletics - and may even beat the haul of 47 medals we bagged at Beijing.

And there will be a legacy. The rejuvenation of east London will not be insignificant. Jobs will be created, new venues will be maintained for the future. The Aquatics Centre is expected to see 800,000 people a year through the doors.

Inspiration, legacy, and pride. It's something you just cannot put a price on.

Steve: As we get closer to the Games, there is a real risk costs will keep rising

Seven years ago, we were told that the 2012 Olympic Games would cost the grand total of £2.4bn Bargain, eh? That figure has now risen to £9.3 bn and all for the sake of three weeks of sport (five if you include the Paralympics). It just doesn't seem like very good value to me.

Don't get me wrong, I am looking forward to the Olympics and genuinely hope it will be a great success but once the athletes and sport fans have returned home, I worry what the Games' real legacy will be and whether it will be worth the money that has been spent on it.

The venues may have been completed on time but there is a worrying trend when it comes to Olympics stadiums. Six of the eight London venues have a secure future at the moment but we don't know how successful they will be under their new ownership. It is very common for Olympic venues to be used once and then experience below capacity crowds after the games have finished. And the future of the centrepiece of the Olympic Village - the Olympic Stadium - is still unknown.

The economic legacy of an Olympics can sometimes be greater than the sporting legacy. Hardly any recent Olympic Games has made a profit. Athens and Montreal are still suffering the economic aftermath, with massive debts and venues that nobody uses. Here, a London Assembly report last year predicted the cost of maintaining the venues after the Games could be around £300,000-a-year. That money will have to come from the taxpayer at a time of austerity.

With less than 200 days to go, the cost is still rising. Only in December, it was announced that cost of the security of the Games has doubled to £553m and the price tag for the opening and closing ceremonies has grown by £41m. That total could still rise. As MPs warned last year, it is possible as we get nearer to the start of the Games, there is a real risk that the taxpayer will be asked to provide more money.

The truth is that we will not know if the Olympics are a waste of money until many years after the baton has been handed to Rio for the 2016 Games. If in 2016, the London Olympic venues are filled with football supporters, kids everywhere are playing sport and the taxpayer hasn't had to shell out to maintain the legacy, we will know the answer.\

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