London Olympics 2012: What are the lessons for next host, Brazil?
With the London Games wrapping up today, the spotlight moves to Rio, the host city of the 2016 Olympics.
• A version of this post ran on the author's blog, Riogringa.com. The views expressed are the author's own.Skip to next paragraph
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The London Olympics come to an end today with a big Brazilian performance during the closing ceremony to mark the next games in Brazil. With the conclusion of the London games, the reports on Rio's preparedness for 2016 are bubbling up yet again. But it wasn't exactly smooth sailing in the UK. London's experience provides some insight ahead of the games in Rio.
- Traffic was a problem, despite an extensive subway system. The city set up "Olympic lanes" for athletes, which caused confusion and traffic during the beginning of the games. And despite the special lanes, traffic caused delays for athletes arriving at several events.
- Ticket sales were considerably lower than expected, leading the government to call in the military to fill empty seats. In addition, corporate sponsors, athletes' families, and other ticketholders with reserved seats failed to use them. Another issue was the fact that 50,000 tickets were held by foreign agencies trying to sell last-minute tickets at inflated prices. The huge swathes of empty seats caused an uproar in the UK.
- London's local businesses actually suffered during the Olympics, leading economist Nouriel Roubini to dub the games "an economic failure." After warnings for Londoners and tourists without Olympics tickets to avoid public transportation during the games, parts of the city normally swarmed with tourists were practically empty. The city's taxi drivers association estimated a 20-40 percent reduction in passengers, and the British Museum said visitor flows had fallen around 25-30 percent. Retail stores and restaurants also reported considerably fewer customers.
- After some initial concerns about security at the games, as of Friday evening there were no major incidents. However, the security preparations prior to the Olympics ended in scandal when security corporation G4S was unable to provide enough personnel, leading the military to send in soldiers to make up for the shortfall.
- The immediate economic benefits of the games are still unclear. Prime Minister David Cameron said the games could bring in revenues of $20 billion over the next four years. But the costs of holding the Olympics overran the initial budget, and are now estimated at between $16 and $20 billion.