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Don't rely on an Olympic dream

24 February 2010 by
Don't rely on an Olympic dream

It's great that the 2012 games will be held in London, but we can't expect the event to solve all our problems, says Peter Hancock, chief executive of luxury hotel marketing consortium Pride of Britain Hotels.

With two years still to go, we are being reminded at every turn that London will play host to the next Olympic Games. Seldom has so much reliance been placed on the economic benefits, whether real or imagined, of a single event.

Listening to official tourism spokesmen, you would think all our woes will be neatly spirited away thanks to their extraordinary foresight in supporting the original bid. It's the ultimate cop-out when faced with difficult questions about why this industry receives so little tangible support from politicians, with the notable exception of the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson.

I loathe sport so can only view the Olympics in business terms. According to Oxford Economics, the event will attract an extra 900,000 people into London, of which a third will be from overseas, and will, of course, be watched by many millions on television. That's great. And all this means lots of coverage about England that we hope will drive interest from potential visitors, especially those who will come for other reasons when the smart new stadia have fallen quiet.

The nagging suspicion persists, however, that an awful lot of hope is resting on our 15 minutes of fame in 2012. It reminds me of the build-up to the "dawning of the new millennium" which featured in virtually every speech one listened to in 1999. Do you remember what happened? The world woke up on 1 January to find things had changed not a jot, and our computers still worked after all.

Some readers will be fuming at these comments. We should all get behind the games and plan for the "legacy" to follow, they will say. They are probably right. But if your heart and mind are as unmoved as mine by the thought of all that sweat and Lycra, you too would struggle to appear very excited about it.

We still have 2010 and 2011 to get through and need to be as creative as possible to draw visitors to these shores with other incentives for the next 29 months. There will be sweat…but hopefully only behind the scenes!

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