The Olympic flame passed through Oxford earlier this week but I didn’t watch it. Frankly, I am a bit of an Olympic humbug; it seems to be at least as much about boosting the profits of mega-corporations and tightly controlling the branding as about celebrating the incredible achievements of the athletes or bringing regeneration to needy areas.
It did get me wondering though just how much all this is costing. Figures for the cost to the public purse start at £9.3 billion (the budget) with suggestions that spending is turning out to be higher. We could call that £10 billion as a rough figure. The public cost is borne by the UK taxpayer (about 25 million of us) but tax is meant to bring benefits to the whole nation, so let us divide that cost among 62 million (UK population estimated in mid-2010). Those are finger in the air figures plucked from the Internet but will do for this exercise.
So, £10 billion divided by 62 million… that only comes to £16 per head which is actually rather less than I expected. I do wonder though what could have been done with that figure towards producing the promised benefits, such as increased participation in fitness activities and regeneration of some run down areas? Instead we have murky areas such as corporate sponsorship and LOCOG’s attempts to prohibit the use of a raft of Olympics related words (that in itself threatens to undo a lot of the potential benefits to the grassroots UK economy while lining the pockets of multinationals).
I suppose it is rather late to head it off; at least the UK is unlikely to host another one of these summer jamborees for some years to come.