Posted June 22, 2012
Kicking off UCF's new weekly opinion-series, UCF Forum, is history professor Dick Crepeau's column about the summer Olympic Games in London – and whether the benefits of sponsoring such a monumental event are worth the investment.
The Games of the XXXth Olympiad will begin in London on July 27, and they have been anticipated in England with a combination of excitement, media hype, public indifference, anxiety, and debate.
I had the good fortune of spending the last five months of 2011 in London, while teaching in the FSU London Program, where I was able to witness these various reactions firsthand.
The legacy of the London Games is a subject being discussed and debated in the media and by public officials. Members of the London Organizing Committee stress the event’s “legacy” as a way of reassuring the public that the extravagant cost of staging the games is a wise investment for the people of England – and not a public burden, as has been the case in Greece and China.
The budget has reached 15 billion English pounds (about $23.7 billion), a significant increase from the original projected budget of less than 6 billion pounds (about $9.5 billion). In the past few months the budget for the opening and closing ceremonies was doubled, and at the insistence of the United States, the security budget was also doubled.
This is a tough sell given the fact that unemployment is at a 17-year high, and an austerity budget has been implemented by the English government with a call for sacrifice by the English people. Undaunted by the task, Prime Minister David Cameron and London Mayor Boris Johnson continue to trumpet the benefits of the games, preferring to discuss the finances in terms of “investment” rather than “cost overrun.”
The promised legacy is multifaceted. First, is the opportunity to present the best of Britain to the massive global television audience as well as to visitors. Of more long-term significance is the makeover of East London. Abandoned lands and urban blight have been replaced by the Olympic Park and the Westfield Mall in Stratford.
New public transport for East London includes a massive hub through which nearly every visitor will pass. Affordable housing is another part of the legacy with a projected 11,000 new housing units. The Olympic Village, or at least part of its 3,000 units, is included in that number.
The removal of residents from some East London neighborhoods, the increase in rents, and rising costs of housing in the area, offer a different legacy. Promises that 30 percent of jobs and construction contracts would go to locals were quietly abandoned shortly after the games were awarded to London.
Read the full article at UCF Today.