The Olympics: Now for the hangover

David Bullard says SA's post world cup experience doesn't bode well for the UK

Great party....pity about the hangover

After I'd watched Top Gear's Jeremy Clarkson trying to destroy a Toyota bakkie for the fourth time I decided to review my DSTV contract. It's not that I don't enjoy Top Gear because I do. Well mostly. But when the presenters sit down and review "new" cars that came onto the market a decade ago then you get the feeling that, for around R600 a month, you're being ripped off.

I've even tuned into another programme on cars presented by a much younger Clarkson with a full head of hair. That must be at least twenty years old.  For obvious reasons motoring programmes don't have a very long shelf life but that doesn't seem to have stopped the BBC from re-running them.

What we do in the Bullard household is to downgrade to the cheap bouquet for most of the year and only upgrade during the Tour de France in July. That means we miss programmes like Masterchef Haiti, Big Brother North Korea, Come Dine with Me and the surfeit of appallingly dull food programmes and reality shows.

This is not a major inconvenience because most of the people we socialize with don't even have DSTV and even if they did wouldn't watch such dross. Unfortunately our cheap bouquet means we don't get e-News so I was relieved to tune in during July to find that my old friend Jeremy Maggs is not wasting away with anorexia.

This year we extended our upgrade to include the Olympics and if anybody had told me two weeks ago that I would be glued to the TV watching the finalists in the women's synchronised swimming I would have strongly denied it. It really is an absurd sport for the Olympics but it clearly requires enormous skill which is why it makes good TV. So, like most people I suspect, we are exhausted after two weeks of Olympic coverage and can't wait to get back to our restricted bouquet. At least we'll be able to afford to buy meat again.

While the end of the Olympics puts a couple of hundred rand a month back into the hands of poor pensioners it's just the beginning of the financial headache for Team GB. Once the party is over and the medals have been safely tucked away in the sock drawer the cost will be counted.

Without doubt the 2012 Olympics have been a huge success for the UK and a great diversion from the grim economic reality of a no growth economy. But all good parties have to end and there will be a hell of a hangover with this one.

We went through precisely the same thing in 2010 and the parallels with the London Olympics are astonishing. In both instances there was doubt expressed that the event would proceed smoothly. We didn't have Mitt Romney pontificating on our ability to run an international event but we did have to put up with the Australian media constantly pointing out that Joburg was one of the most dangerous places to visit on Planet Earth.

In both cases the promise that the event would be great for business and generate billions of rands or pounds was grossly exaggerated. Hotels in London were offering discounts one week into the Olympics according to the UK media. West End theatres closed because of lack of audiences and restaurant takings are reported to be down 40% at what is generally regarded as peak tourist season. As we also found with the World Cup, non sporting tourists tended to stay away because they believed London would be chaotic and crowded.

But the real problem now is what to do with a bloody great Olympic stadium when the Olympics are over. Particularly one in a part of London that most tourists probably wouldn't want to visit unless there happened to be an Olympics taking place. There's no point in using it for rock concerts because there are other venues much better suited.

Maybe West Ham football club will sign a lease or buy it but until the deal is signed the Olympic stadium will stand there as a very expensive reminder of a hell of a good party paid for by a country with worryingly high levels of unemployment, debt and a non performing economy. But at least there is a glimmer of hope on the horizon and, while the cost of building the Olympic stadium will probably never be recovered, its fate may be happier than our own redundant football stadiums.

Despite the many assurances back in 2010 and words like "legacy" and "sustainability" being casually chucked around by smooth talking PR types, it appears that the weeds will soon be pushing through the cracked concrete of many of our unused stadia. Not even Cape Town can think of a use for the enormously expensive Greenpoint Stadium it insisted on building while the doubters grumbled that all Newlands needed was a lick of paint.

Now, to be honest, I couldn't give a toss about all the money that was frittered away during the 2010 World Cup. However, if I was living in a flooded shack near Cape Town airport with my wife and three children and still had to use a communal toilet after 18 years of ANC rule I would be really angry. 

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