SBD/July 26, 2012/Olympics

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair Says Olympics Are Good For The City, Despite Price

Blair said the money spent on Olympics was worth it for East London regeneration
Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair yesterday “defended his decision to deliver the games to London,” maintaining that the event “will be value for money as austerity hits other public projects,” according to Rob Harris of the AP. Blair helped deliver the Olympics, landing England a project with a US$14.4B bill “taxpayers had to foot.” Blair said, “Even though it's a lot of money, 9 billion pounds, we have regenerated a whole part of the East End of London.” He added, “If you were to pose the question to (fellow bidders) Paris or Madrid or New York ... 'Would you prefer to be putting on the Olympics right now?' I'm sure they would say 'Yes.'” Blair described the games as “an opportunity to showcase modern Britain, modern London” to the world. He said, “The important thing for us … is to use the Olympics to build a legacy in the country” (AP, 7/25). Current Prime Minister David Cameron said, “This is a great moment for us. Let’s seize it.” He called the eve of the Games “a truly momentous day for our country” (BBC News, 7/26). In a special to the LONDON TIMES, U.K.-based economist Kevin Daly writes the management and cost-effectiveness of the Games preparation “has been a success.” There will be “a lasting impact on the local community in Stratford from regenerating a run-down part of East London.” For the next three weeks, U.K. Trade & Investment is “opening its doors to the world’s business leaders, capitalizing on their presence at the Games.” In previous Olympics, where the preparations “have gone well and costs have been controlled, there has been a lasting positive economic legacy.” The government’s projection that the US$13.3B investment will yield US$20.4B is “likely to be an underestimate” (LONDON TIMES, 7/26).

ARCHITECTURE GETS ATTENTION: The AP’s Gregory Katz reviews the stadiums and infrastructure around the Games and notes some architects and architectural critics “have been skeptical, calling the look and feel ho-hum."  But the "final touches -- the landscaping in particular -- seems to have won many over.” The Olympic Stadium already has “garnered some awards and been shortlisted for the prestigious Roy Institute of British Architects Stirling Prize.” Building Design magazine critic Oliver Wainwright said, “Long term it will be very valuable.” Architectural firm CZWG Partner Piers Gough: “Initially I thought the park was a bit harsh, a bit Eastern bloc, but the landscaping has really brought it together and made it luscious. The way it has so many levels and goes down to the rivers and the canals has been very clever and make a great Olympics site. I’m impressed” (AP, 7/26). In London, James Lawton writes the hope is that “indeed a neglected section of a great city will have a new sense of itself and a swagger that comes when you are a part of great events.” Lawton: “And that we can say, yes, maybe it was worth it” (London INDEPENDENT, 7/26). Also in London, Robin Scott-Elliot writes, "The Games of the XXX Olympiad will be alright. They may even be better than that. The construction process was smooth and within budget." The 80,000-seat main stadium's future "may be far from settled but it is a worth arena for an Olympic Games" (London INDEPENDENT, 7/26).

MY COUNTRY TIS OF THEE: Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney said there were "disconcerting" signs about England's readiness. Romney: "It's hard to know just how well it will turn out. There are a few things that were disconcerting: the stories about the private security firm not having enough people, supposed strike of the immigration and customs officials, that obviously is not something which is encouraging." Romney also “questioned the enthusiasm of the British public.” Romney: "Do they come together and celebrate the Olympic moment? That's something which we only find out once the Games actually begin" (London TELEGRAPH, 7/26). In Miami, Linda Robertson writes, “Londoners regard the Olympics the way they regard the royal family. Some are proud of the monarchy. Some abide it. Others dismiss it as a waste of time and money. But they are coming around” (MIAMI HERALD, 7/26).

BUBBLING WITH EXCITEMENT
: In Tampa, Gary Shelton writes under the header, “Jolly Old England Stays Upbeat As Olympics Near.” England is “so full of joy to see everyone that the country is positively fizzy” (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 7/26). In Boston, Shira Springer writes under the header, “London Embracing The Olympiad.” Springer notes with fewer that “48 hours until the London Games officially begin, the host city is embracing the Olympic experience.” Excitement “is building, albeit tempered by the practical concerns of some Londoners” (BOSTON GLOBE, 7/26). However, in Vancouver, Cam Cole writes the mood in London is “one of mild apprehension percolating in a culture of chronic skepticism” (VANCOUVER SUN, 7/26). In Denver, Mark Kiszla notes everything from the "response of people on the streets to the simple, functional design of the Olympic Park is understated." A survey indicated that "barely 50 percent of the local population is truly excited about the Games, as opposed to Vancouver, where every citizen made it a personal mission visitors had a good time" (DENVER POST, 7/26).
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