Olympics Would Earn Billions,we Were Told. Some Hope! Analysis

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Byline: by Alex Brummer City Editor

BY conjuring up images of London becoming overwhelmed with visitors and by constantly warning about potential traffic problems, Boris Johnson and his City Hall colleagues successfully convinced people to keep out of the capital during the Olympics.

This was achieved by a combination of countless temporary road signs which advised motorists to avoid the city during the Games and the provision of controversial Zil lanes reserved for Olympic dignitaries.

Then of course there were Mayor Boris's own jaunty public Tannoy announcements that told travellers about 'huge pressure' on the transport network and boomed: 'Don't get caught out. Get online and plan your journey.' It took just 72 hours after the Olympics began for it to become clear that a calamitous error had been made and that London had turned into a ghost city.

The truth is that the much-trumpeted economic boost from the Olympics seems to be a mirage. How different the reality is from Tony Blair's bombastic declaration in 2005 that this would be 'a once-inan-era opportunity for British tourism'. In panic, Mr Johnson ordered the traffic warnings to be turned off and most of the Zil lanes to be opened to all traffic. But the damage had already been done.

Boris and his Transport for London colleagues, though, are not solely responsible for this sabotage of Britain's economic engine room.

Despite the worst economic crisis for generations, cosseted Whitehall civil servants have been allowed to work from home for six weeks so the poor lambs don't suffer any travel disruption during the Olympics.

Andrew Lloyd Webber added to the gloom by predicting the Games would be 'a bloodbath' for West End theatre and closing three of his seven London theatres during the Olympics. The truth is that such Armageddon warnings about an extra one million people being in central London simply scared people away. Added to this is the fact that many thousands of disappointed London families who failed to secure tickets for Olympic events via the complicated ballot system decided to book holidays and fled the city.

So what happened to the predictions for a commercial bonanza that would lift Britain out of its rain-sodden, double-dip recession and boost spending?

NOT only is there a shortage of tourists pouring into London with bulging wallets, but some hoteliers who originally raised prices in the hope of a huge extra demand are reporting that bookings are 30 per cent down on last summer and they have been forced to heavily discount the price of empty rooms.

And as for the supposed economic boost from Olympic venue construction projects, now the work is finished and the cranes are starting to vanish from the skyline, the construction industry is taking a dive.

The one man who must be looking at this bleak picture with the greatest foreboding is the Chancellor, George Osborne.

Ahead of the Games, a boastful statement from Downing Street announced that in parallel with the Games, the Government would be seeking to put the 'Great' back into Britain. This would involve a series of investor conferences which would bring 3,000 international business leaders to London. The potential benefit, it was claimed, would be a [pounds sterling]13billion boost to the economy, with British businessmen using the conference to sell their products and raise [pounds sterling]1billion in extra sales. …