SBD/August 3, 2012/Olympics

Extra Taxpayer Money Needed To Ready Olympic Stadium For EPL Club After Games

Plans to reconfigure stadium for EPL play may cost taxpayers more than $233M
A plan to convert London's Olympic Stadium into a soccer stadium after the Games "could cost the public" $233.4M (all figures U.S.) on top of the original building costs, according to Ashling O'Connor of the LONDON TIMES. The original $147.8M estimate has now increased by $31.1M to "include upgrades to the 'no frills' stadium, including internal toilets, corporate hospitality suites, a new pitch, a partial roof extension and a reduction in capacity from 80,000 to 60,000." An extra $54.5M is also "needed to fund retractable seats over the running track and a full extension of the roof to cover every seat." The roof currently only covers two-thirds of the stadium. The additional $233.4M would "come on top" of the $669M already paid by taxpayers to build the stadium for the Games. It will "be discussed next week when the London Legacy Development Corporation, the mayor’s property arm, opens formal negotiations with four bidders shortlisted this month." The favorite "to be awarded the 99-year lease" in October is EPL club West Ham United (LONDON TIMES, 8/3).

TOO LATE TO CHANGE ANYTHING: The GUARDIAN's Simon Jenkins writes the London Games are "fine," and the facilities at Stratford are "as good as ever." But when he rhetorically asks whether the Games are worth $14B cost to hold them, he answers, "No, of course not. The Games was never worth that." The Olympics "seems enjoyable and remarkably scandal-free," but more "worrying is the impact on political discourse." To quarrel with "any feature of the game is to be a whingeing, unpatriotic naysayer." But the city of London "will not recover the cost of the Olympics and may as well forget it." Having spent the money, London residents "should at least lie back and enjoy" the Games, but also "should stop pretending." The "real victims of London's mind-numbing mendacity will be the poor and hapless citizens of Rio in 2016," as they " really cannot afford it" (GUARDIAN, 8/3).

NO REAL TOURISM BUMP: CBS' Mark Phillips examined the economic impact on London during the Olympics, and he said, "It’s not exactly like they threw a party and nobody came. They’ve come alright, just not to the places people hoped they’d come.” Crowds have "tended to stay at the Games” and the “much-hyped bump in general tourism hasn’t happened." Phillips: "In fact, the opposite has happened. Tourism operators say business is way down. ... The surprising thing is this shouldn’t be a surprise. It happens almost all the time. For cities trying to make a name for themselves, the Olympics can be a draw, at least for the future. But for established world cities like London, there always seems to be a dropoff. People scared off by security fears or by jacked-up hotel prices.” New York Univ. Prof. of Urban Policy & Planning Mitchell Moss: “There’s a myth about the Olympics that somehow just having them is going to solve all the problems of the city. The Olympics historically have added to problems of cities.” Phillips said Great Britain’s “government and Olympic officials are saying take the long view, the image created by these Games will payoff in the end" (“CBS This Morning,” CBS, 8/3).
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