The positive effect of the Olympics should not be underestimated.
Just a few days after the Olympic closing ceremony and already those mesmerizing two weeks seem a world away.
No longer tethered to the TV, cheering on the athletes while pressing ‘refresh’ on that wretched ticketing website (a wonderfully effective way to raise blood pressure), I’ve been using my suddenly free time to consider the impact of the Games that we can assess so far – the feel-good factor.
Looking back over the coverage – both formal and informal, via social media – there’s been a dramatic shift in attitude towards the Games. Just before the event, the commentariat consensus was broadly a weary cynicism about the Games and a certain smugness on the part of those escaping London for the fortnight.
Yet as soon as the vast majority were captivated by the opening ceremony, the nation and the commentators were almost universally caught up in the rollercoaster of cheering on Team GB, and starting to chase elusive tickets (and becoming furious about empty seats).
Now, with the Olympics over and Team GB having surpassed most expectations, the ‘feel-good’ factor seems to be lingering as preparations for the Paralympics continue. Many London and UK residents have been surprised by how much they enjoyed the Games and a recent Ipsos Mori poll showed that, within the UK, the reputation of the BBC, the Royal Family and Londoners have all been boosted.
International coverage has been positive; London has created an impression of friendly efficiency and passionate enthusiasm. And there are hopes from Ministers that initiatives such as ‘London House’ will help businesses convert meetings into leads and profits in the future.
The feel-good factor should not be underestimated – not only does it make people happy, which is never bad, but there may be an impact on economic growth – two-thirds of respondents in the Ipsos Mori survey thought that London’s economy would benefit from the Olympics, and nearly 3 in 5 people (58%) thought that the Olympics would have a positive impact on the UK economy as a whole.
Yet reports about the impact of the Olympics on tourism and retail suggest the Olympics did not help boost custom in the short-term. And with school and grey autumn days fast approaching, feel-good will rapidly turn to nostalgia. The economy is still struggling, despite positive employment figures. And the public mood is shifting once again, with attention already turning to what kind of long-term legacy there will be once the Paralympics leaves the venues in early September, once the triumphs of Mo, Jess, Sir Chris Hoy and all the other winners has faded.
The feel-good factor means that the first part of the legacy is already secured: the UK and international viewers broadly regard the Games as having been efficient and friendly (think about the effect of lingering perceptions, however unfair, of an over-commercialised Atlanta ’96 or not feeling safe at the Football World Cup in South Africa).
But short-term feel-good is not enough. Now the focus has to be on sustaining and making the most of this goodwill. The Centre has been looking at what can be learned from past Olympic cities and has produced a six point guide to making the most of Olympic legacies. We’ll be publishing it once the Paralympics is over – watch this space for further details.
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