Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Who Gains From The Games?

If you need a light, the Olympic torch is currently careering round the West Country, if you’d prefer one as a permanent fixture, you can pick up your own on Ebay. The torches are valued at £495, but carriers have the option to purchase for £295, and are free to flog on after use. But best be warned, the bidding is barmy. I could find little available for under four figures, rising to around £145,000 for the bronzed brazier whose current owner is donating 75% of the cash to the charity Whizz Kidz. My advice would be the replica torch as a cupcake decoration for £1.09 plus postage.
All the pomp, and edible.

 That torch bearers have chosen to sell-on their illustrious cargo has angered some, which seems a trifle harsh. They will, after all, be some of the very few to make any money at all from the upcoming Games, so good luck to them.  

 Ok, it would be churlish to assume that an international festival of sport will not attract commercial opportunities and resulting income. However, the outlay is principally from the public purse, which is not where the profits will end up.  Indeed, opportunities have already been missed to generate some home grown earnings. 84% of all the souvenirs sold on the London 2012 website were not manufactured in the UK. Even the eleven million tickets for the Olympics and Paralympics, will not have been printed here. The multi-million pound contract went to an American firm based in Arkansas, and the tickets are being shipped 4,500 miles instead.

 To be fair, the contracts have been awarded to the most competitive bidders, but as the Games is essentially not a commercial entity, why does the bottom line have to be top of the agenda? Money sent abroad will be spent abroad, whereas, home grown contracts, even at a slightly higher price, would mean British wages feeding back into the system. It’s the kind of thing politicians would say, but finance finds famous friends. I did not “back the bid”, but surely if the country is footing the bill, it should benefit economically where possible.

 It’s hard to find exact figures for how much London 2012 is actually costing, but £11 billion seems a pretty reliable working estimate. For figure fans, that’s £11,000,000,000. Now, don’t get me wrong, that would only be an extravagant and senseless waste of resources if, for example, we were labouring under, let’s say, the deepest economic downturn in living memory. Oh, wait a minute…

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