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COMMENT: What do locals really think of the Olympics?

Posted on Monday, 16 July by

2012: the year that the Olympic Games come to the UK. But the question is, is it all worth it? £9 billion of the taxpayers money, years of preparation and UK terrorist alerts, all for the sake of just over two weeks of sport?

The Olympics is a controversial topic with many different opinions held within the UK and overseas. There are arguments for and against the Olympics coming to England this year, and vary greatly depending on personal circumstances. You can come at it from a business angle, where the smaller economies other than central London itself are taken into consideration. I am intrigued as to whether small towns out of the centre of London, such as Eastbourne, will be affected positively with a boost to the economy, or whether they will be overlooked due to geographical issues.

A local shopkeeper in Eastbourne, running a small business, aired his strong views to me recently. “Oh it won’t help us,” he utters, “no, not at all, cos I mean y’know there’s just nothing happening here”. He continues, “I might have one day, when they bring the torch through that it might help, but then they’ll bring the torch through along the seafront, what is the point? If they’d bring it through the town centre, where there are a lot more people, it could help”.

On the other hand, a young woman in Eastbourne town centre seemed very excited for the games to come to the UK, and was very positive about the local economy knock on effect. She told me “it will be good when it all starts happening!” and that it would be “good for tourism”.

A local man in his 60s took a very different approach. He told me that the difference to Eastbourne’s economy would be marginal, and that in the global sense you’re going to have a lot more people spending money, but they’ll be spread all over the UK. Mr Graham also told me that he doesn’t think the money we are spending on it is worth it at all. “No. I don’t, because the whole thing doesn’t have the same ethos as it used to. When I was a kid I remember the 64 Olympics, I was at school, and they were fabulous world events…but now they are so commercial, all the athletes are so unprofessional, taking drugs, I mean the whole thing is so cynical, and I don’t think it’s worth even watching on TV now.”

On the other hand, a young girl working in a sports shop again, chose different words. She tells me that the Olympics are great for business as they sell a lot of ‘Team GB’ merchandise. “Yeah I think we’ll sell a lot, it should be great for business! Well, it already has been!” says Abi.

A man working on an NHS stand was very keen to tell me about his views on the Olympics coming to the UK. “I think it’s a great event that brings a sense of pride and patriotism to the people”, he told me with enthusiasm. I asked the man if he thought it will help Eastbourne’s economy as opposed to just central London, and he replied with; “yeah I think it will bring more tourists into the South East because it’s a cheaper place to stay rather than London, and hopefully go into London and also come out and check out places like here”.

I also spoke to two young women running a small shop in the town centre; ‘Honey’. One of the girls told me she was “excited for It because it’s gonna bring more tourists”. I then questioned the other girl as to whether she thinks that tourism will help boost the economy in Eastbourne specifically, to which she said “Hopefully. Everyone’s gonna be celebrating, so even if well people in Eastbourne will be out for the occasion so that will be more money being spent in businesses”.

Lastly, a man working in HMV in Eastbourne town centre told me that he doesn’t think it will make a lot of difference in Eastbourne as much as in London. He told me that he thinks people will be going home watching it on TV, and therefore not going out to shopping centres, spending money.

The overall consensus would be that people get a sense of patriotism from the Olympics, and are generally in favour of funding it through our taxes to come together as a nation. However, when it comes to boosting smaller economies outside of central London, it seems as though the majority of people would say otherwise.

This article was written as part of a two-day activity at Sussex Downs College, where students with the best articles were rewarded with the chance of being published on SQ Magazine.

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Leah Johnston

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