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We know HM government’s feelings on the matter. Thousands of civil servants have been granted permission to work from home or in offices closer to their homes for seven weeks during the Olympics and Paralympics. A total of 17 government departments have been given this option, but not everyone has the financial power to be able to make such a sweeping gesture. Actually the government doesn’t either, given that their money is our money. Mark Field, the Conservative MP for the Cities of London and Westminster, thinks it sends out the wrong message. ‘Sadly this flies in the face of the claims that Britain will be open for business. It’s fine to do it for the three weeks, but for the seven weeks from the middle of July to early September sends the wrong signal. Whitehall is hard to get hold of at the best of times, so this is hardly going to help.’


So, will London 2012 bring a lasting legacy to UK businesses and to the city and nation as a whole? A survey conducted by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) found that six out of ten of their members did not expect to see a long-term benefit and as few as 7% expect the Olympics to benefit business in any way. There are also fears that after the billions the taxpayer has contributed to state-of-the-art sporting venues we could be left with white elephants, just as the Millennium Dome became before its rebirth as the O2. Worse, we could end up with rotting stadia like those built for the Athens Olympics in 2004. Greek archaeologist, Ioannis Georganas, bemoaned his nation’s missed opportunity to create a positive legacy. ‘During the Olympics,’ he said, ‘Athens was a lively, happy city. Everybody was smiling all the time. There was something different in the atmosphere but unfortunately after it all finished people went back to their routines and that was it. We never built


on that momentum to do more. We missed the opportunity.’

Ensuring that doesn’t happen to London will be the job of the London Legacy Development Corporation, set up by the Mayor to manage the development of the Olympic Park once the Games leave town. The momentum the Games have given to the regeneration of the Stratford area will have to be maintained if the example of Athens, albeit an extreme one, is not to be followed. Boris Johnson has vowed there will be no financial hangover and that jobs and housing will flourish in the aftermath. Critical to that will be the further

construction work that has to be done on the main stadium, to make it viable as a potential home for West Ham FC, and on the Broadcast Centre, which must be adapted in order to make it appealing to commercial media firms.

Only when the dust settles and the bills have all been counted will we be able to count the ultimate cost. Did the Olympics truly encourage more young people into sport, or was that just a vague promise to make London’s pitch more appealing to the IOC? Did it ever really matter anyway, given that the true driver of the modern Olympiad appears to be cold, hard cash? Will the Olympic Park be the vibrant centre of a revived East London or a growing

embarrassment? And are Mayor

Johnson and the government right to say that the apparent £2bn overrun on the £9bn budget will be clawed back by the future exploitation of the land and building potential?

Staging the Olympics was never going to be easy. One can’t help thinking that there is an awful lot riding on five short weeks of summertime sport.



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