You may have noticed that the government has increased the budget for the opening and closing ceremonies for the Olympic games by £40M. Not a lot in the scale of things but you’d think in these times of austerity they could do something a bit more useful.
How exactly will it benefit this country? It won’t bring in more tourists once they realise how much they’ve been ripped off going to stay in London.
And then there’s all the talk about how the games will be good for business. Well maybe in London but is it going to benefit people in Gateshead or Runcorn or Carlisle?
People living in London can’t even get tickets but if you are a corporate sponsor you will have already got your share. And don’t get me going on sponsors – MacDonald’s, that well-know healthy food outlet!
But we know it’s all about the money not the olympic ideal. Athletes don’t perform for pride in their country but in the hope of winning gold and then getting on the honours list or even a seat in the House of Lords and a couple of directorships. Lord Coe hasn’t done too badly has he? The Olympic ideal disappeared long ago when we started paying athletes to do what they enjoyed doing.
As Matthew Syed pointed out in a Times column earlier this year, there is no evidence that the investment in sports quangos running into hundreds of millions has actually increased participation levels or that sport improves self-esteem, reduces delinquency, or increases community cohesion. It may improve health but is unlikely to save the NHS any money in the long run.
At one time it was believed by economist that major sporting events could benefit the country but that hasn’t always turned out to be the case.
So let’s keep the whole thing in perspective. Most of us can’t afford to go and watch it and if we do go we know we’ll get ripped off by all and sundry like innocent tourists abroad (hotel prices are up 300% blamed partly on the fact that officials and sponsors bagged the first 50,ooo rooms).
Some athletes will do well out of it, increasing their sponsorship maybe thereby putting off the day they will need to get a proper job, having someone ghost-writing a book for them, doing personal appearances etc.
People will skive off work to watch their favourite events on TV so productivity will be down. And if we don’t win anything we’ll all be depressed. It’s hard to create a feel-good factor with the economy in the state it’s in.