Over two-thirds of Britons believe the £9 billion ($13.8 billion) bill for the London Olympics was worth it, but economists and business leaders argue it could take years to see the economic benefits.
According to a poll by research consultancy ComRes, released on the first anniversary of the Games, 69 per cent of participants said it was a good investment of public money.
But only 22 per cent of the public feel the Games have had a positive impact on the local economy in their area, with 67 per cent saying the Olympics had no impact at all.
Samuel Tombs, an economist at Capital Economics, said there was an obvious boost to UK economic growth during the Games but it was too early to see a legacy benefit.
He told CNN: “I think there are question marks over whether the £10 billion of public money spent on the games could have been better used… for example infrastructure projects such as transport, that could have yielded a higher economic return.”
In the second-quarter of 2013, the U.K. grew by 0.6 per cent — double the rate of expansion for the first three months of the year — suggesting Europe’s third-largest economy is on track for a recovery. Tombs said the figures also showed growth in all areas of the economy,
which he noted was was a first in recent years.
The UK contracted for five consecutive quarters from the second quarter of 2008, and failed to grow for another nine months in late 2011 and early 2012 as the eurozone debt crisis raged.
Although the cultural heritage of the Olympics is important, it could take years before we see its true economic value, according to Tombs.
He said: “You often fail to see a boost in tourism for the years after the Games and obviously it’s very hard to reuse the facilities that have been built.”
Director of Economics at PricewaterhouseCoopers, Mark Ambler, said the benefits may not be evident for at least another 10 years. He told CNN: “On this basis, the evidence I have been involved in generating and that I have seen from others suggests strongly that the UK will get a good return on its investment, although I think important parts of it are still to come.”
On Thursday, Mayor of London Boris Johnson said that the success of the Olympics and Paralympics has spurred investment in the U.K capital.
Speaking at a press conference, he said: “Remember the fate of the Olympo-sceptics is all I would say to anyone tempted to doubt the legacy.”
But according to Matthew Jaffa, spokesman for the Federation of Small Businesses, not enough is being done in the wake of the Olympics to promote “Brand London” as an exporter.
He added: “The Games have had more of an impact on London than the rest of the UK. 55 per cent of the companies that won contracts, directly related to the Olympics, saw growth within the turnover of their business, which is positive.”
Despite skepticism from some quarters of the business community, the ComRes poll — which surveyed over 3,200 people — also showed that nearly three-quarters of Britons would welcome the Olympic Games back given the opportunity.
Political economist and and co-author of the book ‘The Olympics: How was it for us?’ said the Games were “a triumph of public endeavour… it’s a very good example of what a very dynamic and focused public sector can do.”