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What price will London pay for Olympics?

Updated: August 12, 2012 4:30PM

LONDON — Thoughts on almost leaving London:

Even before the Closing Ceremonies the British are weighing in on their role in these Olympics, how good a presentation they made, whether the “happiness” will last forever, and whether the country will actually benefit in some tangible way from this most disrupting of events.

From what I’ve been reading in the newspapers (ignoring, of course the happy faces on TV) there is a mixed yet hopeful review.

As beloved British novelist Martin Amis said, “I have been…gloating over the results. The Games have constituted a barely credible triumph for British athletes, for British organizational nous, for British hospitality, and even for British weather. The achievement deserves to live long in the memory.’’

But in the same article in Sunday’s The Independent, fashion designer Pearl Lowe said, ``I’d love to think that the Olympics have an everlasting feel-good effect but all will be forgotten by September.’’

My sense is it’s somewhere in the middle.

Bufoonish London mayor Boris Johnson warned so long and so vigorously about the hordes of humanity that would descend on the city for the Games, the traffic jams that would ensue, the need for giant toilet plungers to jam everyone on the trains, the disruption of all things normal and sane, that Londoners took off or locked themselves in basements and non-Olympics tourists stayed away. Local businesses suffered terribly, theater saw a mere portion of the traffic it normally would, museums were almost deserted, and taxi drivers cruised the streets begging for customers. Which was sweet for us journalists — and how about those Olympic Traffic Lanes for our buses! — but not so good for the home of Big Ben.

Oh, the irony. The Games will bring in 100,000 tourists, crowed the government. Fine, but London normally has 300,000 tourists in August, anyway. It’s kind of a big shell game, these Olympics. It’s like that at all of them. And the question I’d like to drop on the happy-happy politicians: Now that Greece is bankrupt and has an unemployment rate heading toward 24 percent, how much do you think the 2004 Athens Olympics helped that country?

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