With the London Games in full swing, it’s easy to get caught up in Olympic fever. And Londoners certainly celebrated in 2005 when their hometown was chosen for the 2012 games. But those days are long gone, says Manhattan Institute scholar Steven Malanga.
Writing at Real Clear Markets, Malanga says the Olympics for London, like for most cities before, have cost excessively more than projected and are generating far less income than predicted.
The London organizers originally projected that staging the games would cost $8 billion, a pretty penny, indeed. But now it looks like the true bill will be between $17 billion and $19 billion. Meanwhile, the economic boost from the games appears minimal. Tourism’s contribution to the U.K. economy is likely to grow less than one percent this year despite the games, according to the World Travel & Tourism Council.
Other European capitals are reporting a sharp and unusual boost in visitors, which they attribute to tourists who aren’t interested in the Olympics avoiding London this summer. By some accounts, London hotels are discounting rooms by as much as 25 percent in recent weeks. One West End theater chain which operates six venues, Nimax, says ticket sales are off 30 percent this summer. The Association of Leading Visitor Attractions in London, which represents the city’s museums, estimates attendance is down 30 percent to 35 percent. Either people are saving their money for the Olympics or simply avoiding London.
But it’s not just the cost vs. revenue equation that Malanga points out. Approximately 40 small business owners in East London have filed lawsuits against the organizers of the London Olympic Games over the excessive restrictions and road closures that they say will put hundreds of their employees’ jobs at risk.
And, of course, it’s an election year, so there’s a political angle to all of this:
After Chicago lost its bid in 2009 to host the 2016 Olympics, President Obama criticized naysayers who urged the city not to try. “I mean, who’s against the Olympics?” he said. Right now in London I’m betting there are quite a few taxpayers and business owners who can provide the President with an adequate answer to that question.