Millions cheered with jubilation when it was announced that London had been chosen to host the 2012 Olympics. More recently, however, there has been a strong backlash against the games, which many are calling “a waste of money.”
David Cameron has frequently quoted the benefits of the games, saying that the Olympics will bring a 1 million boost for British businesses, will see an extra 4 million visitors to Britain in 4 years and will leave a sporting legacy for generations to enjoy. But many have criticised the rising cost of the games, fearing that it is the taxpayer who will have to shell out the extra cash. We were originally told that the games would cost 2.4 billion, but this has since gone up to 9.3 billion.
There are also worries about the future of the competition venues and how successful they will be under their new owners. Previous hosts of the Olympics have reported many of their venues experiencing below capacity crowds after the games have finished. In this current economic climate, will the Olympics simply plunge us into more debt?
I don’t think the value of the games can measured in economic terms though. This is a once in a generation event that is not likely to come our way again anytime soon; the last time Britain hosted the Olympics was in 1948. Over 15,000 of the world’s greatest athletes will be competing on British soil, an amazing spectacle in itself. The Olympics are our opportunity to restore some national pride and celebrate the sporting talent within this country; trust me, we have plenty of chances for medals!
It’s true that sport unites people. Watching your own team is an emotional experience and allows you to connect with fellow supporters. Even if you’ve never had any interest in rowing for example, you still don’t want to see one of our rivals cross the finish line ahead of the British contender.
Perhaps the most important aspect of the games is the inspiration it will provide for thousands of young sporting hopefuls. As they watch their heroes compete in one of the world’s most prestigious sporting competitions, they may realise that their dreams are achievable. And with a lot of hard work, discipline and dedication, these youngsters may one day be standing on the same podium.
Ultimately, we won’t know whether the Olympics were a waste of money until several years after the event, when the torch is handed to the next host country. If Cameron delivers on his promises, the cynics will be silenced and the Olympics will be hailed as a huge success. If not, the Olympics could turn out to be a financial disaster. I hope it’s the former.