Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Lasting Legacy of the Olympics Will Be to Saddle Us with Debt; Columnist

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Lasting Legacy of the Olympics Will Be to Saddle Us with Debt; Columnist

Article excerpt

Byline: Tom Gutteridge

HEATHROW will be hell today. Apparently it's going to be the airport's busiest day ever, as the first wave of Olympic athletes is scheduled to arrive.

They'll step straight into queues to have their passports stamped by immigration officials with just a couple of weeks' training, then on to even longer queues at the lost baggage desks. There'll be international temper tantrums by nightfall.

Up here in the North East, we're well out of it. We should be thankful that the Olympic Games hasn't fulfilled its promise to be an event for the entire nation, grateful that the only long-term benefit for Britain will be some sports stadia and a park in East London. At least we won't have to suffer for the next month.

Can you imagine how unpleasant it will be? Residents' car parking permits suspended, roads slimmed to a single lane to allow VIPs to speed through like Eastern European potentates, people jammed on to public transport like sardines, restaurants and hotels tripling their prices. And all for what? For pounds 9bn of our money, that's what. I saw a Press report the other day lauding the fact that the Olympics are under budget by pounds 476m. By my calculation, that's around pounds 6.5bn over the budget Lord Coe promised when he and his team persuaded the International Olympic Committee to hang this millstone round the national neck.

The French, pipped at the post by just four votes, must be smirking down the Champs-Elyses, as they watch real tourists pouring into Paris this month.

This year, European capitals will enjoy their busiest summer, while Britain, for all the officials and athletes, has gained no benefit from visitors at all. Slightly more than 30 million visitors arrived on our shores last year, and this year they predict exactly the same number. The total visitor spend will be pounds 17.6bn, precisely the same as it was last year.

London hotel bookings for this July and August have actually fallen by around 20%, while those in Paris have risen by 90%; Dublin and Barcelona have both seen an even bigger surge in demand. …

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