London 2012: Was it worth it?

Graham Swann,

On 12th August, Britain and the rest of the world looked on as the ever flamboyant Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, passed the Olympic flag over to the Major of Rio de Janeiro to officially end the London 2012 Olympic Games.

It was, of course, all done in a very formal manner but for those of us watching, the people of Britain could quite easily have spoken as one and said, ‘Right then. Show us what you’ve got, Rio.’

The London 2012 Olympics, surprisingly some might say, captured the hearts of the nation. The fact that the brilliant Team GB came away with just the 65 medals, 29 of them gold, is proof in itself that the athletes triumphed at their own party.

Despite the success, there is, however, no getting away from the fact that many are asking the question: was it worth it?

‘Are you serious?’ some might say. After all it was the most successful Olympics ever for a British team. Thanks to Hoy, Wiggins, Farah, Ennis, Rutherford and Daley to name some, London 2012 surely has achieved its aim to ‘inspire a generation’. Britain has had a long seven year wait to reach this moment and the success has made it all worthwhile.

But wait. Let’s not forget there were, and still are, problems. Prior to the games, it was laughable that most of the hiccups seemed to occur in the few weeks and months leading up to London 2012 than years in advance.

Security was always going to be an issue with London 2012. It was only one day after it was announced that London’s bid had been successful when 52 people lost their lives in a serious of terrorist attacks that hit the city on that fateful morning of July 7th 2005.

It was security firm G4S that had egg on their faces after a shambolic pre-Olympic supply of security staff. Just 16 days before the Games begun, the company revealed that it did not have enough trained staff ready. 3,500 servicemen were needed to make up the numbers in addition to the 7,500 that were already agreed. If ever the term, “send in the troops” was relevant it was now. Credibly however, G4S donated £2.5 million to the armed forces to make up for their absence in staff. The Games may have ended but the G4S saga certainly hasn’t. We now know their contract to provide security for the Games cost them £50 million – ouch.

Despite the issues with security pre-Olympics, the Games appeared to run very smoothly indeed with hardly any fears being raised. A good result if you can count the only gate crasher of the Olympics being the Queen jumping out of a helicopter with James Bond.

If the Olympics were set to boost the economy it would be fair to say it has not had as big an impact as first thought. Concerns were raised after London’s shops and streets were very quiet. There was gold in the stadium and the velodrome but no such promise was being spent on the high street.

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI), Britain’s leading business organisation, revealed in a survey that the games failed to spark an upturn in fortune for shops and stores. 31% of retailers questioned said sales were lower in August than they had been in a year compared to 27% who said sales were higher. The survey was conducted during the first two weeks in August when the Games took place.

The issue of the Olympics’ effect on the economy will only be known in time. For now, there is only one thing do from a British perspective – bask in the glory.

There was so much gloom in the build up to the Games. The weather was depressing and the talk before London 2012 seemed to be on the various problems surrounding it. Two weeks of uplifting pride has changed that. The nation has ridden on Team GB’s rollercoaster of success ever since Heather Stanning and Helen Glover won Britain’s first gold medal at Eton Dorney.

Let’s not forget Team GB’s Paralympians achieved similar success to continue the feel good factor in Britain. We were treated to great sporting moments from our even more awe-inspiring athletes. What did they have to show for their efforts? Just the small matter of 120 medals.

The evidence of how much support Team GB’s Olympians and Paralympians received was shown in the various parades that took place across the country as the athletes returned to their home towns and cities. It was a great reception for those who were victorious at their home Games. Let’s hope similar success can be achieved in Rio in four years time.

So, were the London 2012 Olympic Games worth it?

Well, can Sir Chris Hoy ride a bike?




  1. Events like this have an intangible benefit. You can’t quantify ‘pride’ or ‘fun’, and so it’s never going to be easy to see if we got value for money.

    Did we raise the profile of London and the UK? Yes

    Did you install a bit more of a competitive spirit into school sports? Probably

    Was that worth £9 billion? In my opinion, no.


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