THE GLORIOUS success of the last 16 days must be used as a springboard to boost British business as well as sport for years to come, the government announced yesterday, appointing Lord Coe to the new position of Olympics legacy ambassador.
Coe is charged with using his global image to travel the world pushing new trade and investment deals, driving forward regeneration and volunteering plans and advising on projects from infrastructure development to school sport.
Speaking at last night’s closing ceremony, Coe told those in the stadium and watching round the world: “When our time came – Britain we did it right. Thank you!”
UK Sport called Team GB’s 29 gold medals “without doubt one of the greatest sporting achievements in this nation’s history,” while David Cameron praised the efforts of athletes, volunteers, the armed forces and police as “the best of this country.”
But the Prime Minister also stressed that the event itself is not the end for the London 2012 project.
“I am determined to make the most of the economic opportunities on offer from hosting the Games – making sure that we turn these Games into gold for Britain. I cannot think of a better person than Seb to be our ambassador to the global market-place and make sure we achieve our ambitious legacy target,” he said.
As well as pumping an extra £125m into sport each year from the taxpayer and the Lottery, he hopes to squeeze £13bn of “economic benefit” out of the event.
If that target is hit it would firmly outweigh the £8.5bn official cost as well as the lost tourism revenue and productivity of visitors and workers avoiding central London. But economists stressed there is more to boosting the economy than appointing a globe-trotting business ambassador.
“To take best benefit from [the Games], the government will need to work harder on bringing down taxes and limiting regulation,” said the Centre for Economics and Business Research in a report published today.
The analysts added that the government must act carefully, pointing to previous host countries that have struggled after the games.
“The Montreal Olympics in 1976 led to the city’s bankruptcy; the Athens Olympics coincided with the beginnings of the Greek spending boom that eventually led to the Greek economic crisis.”
However it also added that “east London is regenerating strongly already and the industries that have moved into the area are very much the industries of the future, with good growth potential”.