As London quiets down, British bask in a post-Olympic glow
London 2012 gave Britain a patriotic boost – not to mention spectacular results at the medal table. Not everything, though, was as rosy as hoped.
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At the Empress pub, Larcombe says if customer numbers do now rise, the Games may be in part behind this. “But we were beginning to get more publicity before, so we were expecting that to happen anyway,” she says.Skip to next paragraph
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Less ambiguous, unfortunately, is the Olympics effect on tourism.
Tourists scared away
In the first few days of the Games, the European Tour Operators Association said tourist numbers had fallen “dramatically.” An announcement played out across the Underground by London's Mayor Boris Johnson, warning of “huge pressure on the transport network,” quickly fell silent.
Though there seemed to be an improvement as the Games progressed, a survey made by a tourism trade association after the Olympics were finished revealed that tourism had suffered.
Businesses in London and farther afield experienced a "significant reduction" in the number of visitors compared with last summer, according to the report by Ukinbound.
Andy Binns, owner of Lake District Tours, in the beautiful northwestern county of Cumbria, says the number of foreign visitors – his main market – was up to two-thirds lower than normal during the Games.
Few foreign tourists visit Britain without taking in the capital, he says, “and there was a perception it would be too expensive during the Olympics. As soon as they were over it was like a tap turning on, with overseas bookings flooding in.”
“I’d like to think that in the longer term, the Games will bring more foreign visitors,” he adds.
So does the government, which is using the Olympics as a springboard to launch Britain’s biggest-ever tourism campaign.
"We've been at the center of global attention in a way that has never happened before in our lifetimes and may never happen again,” said Mr. Hunt, as he launched the plan at the Tate Museum on London’s South Bank. “Let's turn that into people who actually want to come and visit us."
Poll: Good value for the money
Despite front-page headlines about “ghost town” London and falling tourist numbers throughout the country, a poll published by the Guardian newspaper this week found that 55 percent of Britons felt the Olympics had been good value for money.
Since few of those polled will have made their own cost-benefit analysis of the Games, this can only refer to less tangible benefits Britons believe the $14 billion have bought.
It is hard to find a Briton who is not experiencing at least a tinge of patriotic pride in the wake of the Games. The last time so much attention was focused on London and other British cities was almost exactly a year ago, when riots and looting prompted soul searching about how society had created a degenerate, violent underclass.
The Games showed a different side of Britain: efficient, welcoming, and adept at tapping into its multicultural strengths. At a time of economic hardship and, more generally, a sense that Britain’s place on the world stage is ever-shrinking, the Olympics have been good for Britons’ confidence.
“The Olympics have restored a sense of national pride,” says Mark Millard, a psychologist.
“And while that sort of feeling tends to drop away quite quickly after such an event, the Olympics will have an enduring effect," he says. "If a small child has learned from watching athletes, some of whom have had some terrible struggles, that is going to change them, even if they themselves don’t realize it.”