Spate of accidents adds to Olympic headache

Builders working at the 2012 Olympic site have been suffering high rates of injury, and that's just the latest bad news. Is the Olympics really worth it?

The 2012 Olympics have been in the news again, and not in a good way. This time it's safety that's under the spotlight, as reports emerge that workers at the Olympic Village are suffering an unusually high number of workplace accidents.

It's publicity that the Games really don't need. Already, controversy has been raging over what happens to the Olympic Stadium after the Games. Two football clubs are bidding to take it over, but if one plan goes through, the entire stadium, which cost £500 million, will be torn down and replaced with a new one.

And if that seems like a lot of money, consider that the total cost of the 2012 Olympics will run into the billions. By 2007, the Olympic budget had risen to £9.3 billion, nearly four times the original predicted sum.

So – we're spending billions of pounds and years of effort on a sporting event that will last for less than a month. Can it possibly be worth it?

In monetary terms, it seems unlikely. Apart from construction of stadiums and swimming pools, organisers have to build new rail links, hire security, create accommodation for athletes, and pay for a host of other expenses, small and large.

It's true that some of the costs can be earned back. London's tourist trade should get a boost.

There's money to be made from ticket sales and sponsorship deals. TV networks will pay huge fees for the right to broadcast the competition.

Even with all that, however, no recent games have turned a profit, and some make huge losses. Taxpayers in Montreal, Canada, are still forking out for games that took place back in 1976.

And sporting facilities built for Games can be an on-going burden, costing millions to maintain without ever being properly used.

Hidden benefits
But maybe money doesn't tell the whole story. Olympic construction can help regenerate deprived areas. And a successful event can do a lot for PR: the 2000 Olympics made Sydney admired worldwide.

Countries have used these events to advertise themselves too. In 2008, the expensive Beijing games showed the world that China was a genuine global power.

And that's not all. The first Olympics, thousands of years ago in Ancient Greece, brought warring states together under a flag of truce to participate in contests of sporting valour. Supporters hope that this idealistic spirit can be revived. Perhaps, for those few short weeks, nations can still lay aside their differences and share in the world's greatest sporting competition.

You Decide

  1. Does a city's image matter? Why?
  2. Why do people care so much about a sporting competition?

Activities

  1. The logo for the 2012 Olympics has been much criticised. Design your own, trying to reflect the qualities that you think the Olympics should represent.
  2. What are the costs and revenues of an Olympic Games? Draw up an Olympic budget, working out what you'll spend, what you'll earn and who should pay for what.

Some People Say...

“No human activity is as pointless as sport.”

What do you think?

Q & A

I didn't know the Olympics had been going for thousands of years!
That's because they haven't really. They started in Ancient Greece, but died out around the 5th Century AD. The modern Games only go back to 1896.
But the Ancient Greeks invented them?
Yes. The games took place at a religious ceremony held at Olympia, in Southern Greece. Athletes competed in running races, wrestling and boxing. During the period of the Olympics, the many Greek states stopped fighting each other and came together as a single people.
And does that truce still happen now?
Sadly no. Wars carry on regardless. And political quarrels have spilled over into some Olympics. In 1980, for example, 61 countries boycotted the Moscow Games to protest the actions of the Soviet Union. And in 1972, 11 Israeli athletes were murdered by terrorists.