London's Olympic legacy

By Heiko Khoo
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, August 14, 2012
Adjust font size:

The London Olympics have been a staggering success from the standpoint of British sport and the national profile. Only a year after the country was wracked by riots and images of cities burning and youths looting were beamed around the world, the Olympics produced a major boost to shake off the mood of negativity that has infected the national psyche as economic gloom continues.

Danny Boyle's opening ceremony successfully managed to encapsulate a variety of ways in which modern British history and culture influenced the world. The eclectic quirkiness of the ceremony ensured that all but the most die-hard naysayers found something to identify with. The concept of the nation was stretched to encompass everything from the Satanic Mills of the birth of industrial capitalism to the punk rock of the Sex Pistols. The Cold War icon of James Bond, in a plot with the Queen, was a display of cheeky silliness that few other countries could pull off. The supreme icon of English stupidity, Mr. Bean, (portrayed by Rowan Atkinson) probably found his way to the centre stage because his international reputation outstrips the more subtle humor of the magnificent Monty Python, but they were represented in the closing ceremony. The performance allowed anyone British to ponder what they might have added, had they had an input in designing the show. The Left could claim that the central focus of the National Health Service made it 'their show', but the Conservatives, as the incumbent government, could claim the entire Olympic organization as theirs, showing 'Britain at its Best'.

Sadly, Kim Gavin's closing ceremony was a rather shoddy affair, a gathering of miming pop stars, but even that was enjoyed by millions, perhaps for no other reason than because it was the final event.

Before the Olympics London's Conservative Mayor Boris Johnson was so worried about the everyday problems of a creaking infrastructure that a huge campaign to "get ahead of the games" warned of massive overcrowding ― this resulted in an unexpected ghost-town effect. Anywhere outside of the immediate vicinity of Games events, was pretty much dead. Whilst the official statistics are not yet in, all anecdotal evidence suggests that the much-prophesied Olympic boost to the economy has been completely absent.

This may due to fact that the idea of the boom commonly associated with improving consumer sentiment is itself flawed. Investment on Olympic infrastructure in London's East End has little correspondence to any long term investment trends that might open up untapped reserves of profitable business. Instead, economic and consumer retrenchment continues to be the main tendency in London and the UK as a whole.

The total impact of the Games on British consumer spending may turn out to be the exact opposite to what was envisaged. Disruptions to normal patterns of behavior, whether considered positive or negative, tend to shake up the general consciousness and exacerbate the pondering of individuals' personal lifestyles, expenditures, purpose and place in the world.

The 2012 Olympic vision for a new London to be created out of a largely disused area of common land brought together a number of diverse large-scale commercial development plans. The Games separated public zones from Olympic zones appropriated for favored commercial giants.

The global partners of the Olympic Games are companies like Coca Cola and McDonalds, which are absurd corporate entities to be sponsoring sporting events in the first place. But the main problem with the reality of Olympic Games "legacy projects" is that the public, who covered much of the cost of the Olympic Games, have been given no leverage in the future planning of these sites.

Local businesses located even only a few meters from the Games area were completely sidelined; shops in the vicinity of the Games remained mostly empty during the two-week event. Only one week into the Games, a vast entertainment facility called the London Pleasure Gardens, located next to the main Olympic site, declared itself bankrupt. Meanwhile, a giant new shopping centre which opened nearby will wipe out small businesses and restructure the local economy around it.

The local governments representing the main Olympic area include some of the most deprived parts of London. These neighborhoods stand to gain very little from this global event which happened on their doorstep; publicly financed Olympic construction and development projects are zones that have already been sold off or are being sold off at a loss to global private conglomerates, which offer only vague promises of a better future for the local people.

The enduring legacy of the Olympics on Britain will be the focus it gives to young and old to improve their physical health through sport. The short and mid-term benefits of economic growth will prove elusive. This is mainly because large-scale private investment remains stagnant as profits are considered to be too low. Private corporations love to hover around large-scale public sector investments like the Olympic Games in a parasitic fashion, waiting for cheap sell-offs, handouts and bailouts at the expense of the public.

But economics aside, the 2012 Olympic Games were a great success in showing the way sport can promote an internationalist consciousness. This was bolstered by London's multicultural and cosmopolitan character, which carries on the legacy of the past as well as promotes a vision for the future of mankind.

The author is a columnist with For more information please visit:

Opinion articles reflect the views of their authors, not necessarily those of


Print E-mail Bookmark and Share

Go to Forum >>0 Comment(s)

No comments.

Add your comments...

  • User Name Required
  • Your Comment
  • Enter the words you see:   
    Racist, abusive and off-topic comments may be removed by the moderator.
Send your storiesGet more from