Boris Johnson, the city’s Mayor, calls London 2012 “the greatest show on earth in the greatest city on earth”. Hyperbole?… not necessarily. London might legitimately lay claim to the latter title, having consistently topped Euromonitor’s world tourist city league (if “city states” such as Hong Kong and Singapore are excluded). In fact, in 2011 London received over a third more visitors than second placed Bangkok. And the Olympic Games can certainly lay claim to the “greatest show” moniker, with a global reach that will see 205 nations compete at London 2012, and an Opening Ceremony with a budget of £27million (over £100,000 per minute).
But does the greatest show on earth in the greatest city on earth merit a public investment of £9.3bn? Strangely enough, one of the arguments that the Games may not merit such an investment may be the very claim that London is the world’s greatest city. Although Barcelona significantly enhanced its status, image and tourist arrivals by hosting the 1992 Games, if London already tops the world tourist city league, what additional benefit will the Games bring? Wider economic benefits, perhaps? A recent Lloyd’s Banking Group report estimated that London 2012 will have a positive impact on the UK economy of £16.5bn between 2005 and 2017. However, investing £9.3bn in a long-term high interest bank account in 2005 would give a very similar return 12 years later.