Time to throw another £1bn at the Olympics?

The government is planning to spend £1 billion promoting tourism around the 2012 Olympics in Britain.  Is it just me who thinks this is utterly idiotic?  We are already spending billions on the Olympics, the cost of which is bound to overrun even more than the initial overrun, the chances are bits of it won’t be finished in time and will be a terrible embarrassment to us as a nation.  All that aside, has everybody forgotten about the screaming £800bn of national debt we’re wallowing in at the moment? (For those of you who would like a constant reminder get your downloadable ‘Debt Clock’ here).

I feel like I’m taking crazy pills.  The travel industry is merrily chirping about how good this investment will be for British tourism, but they all seem happy to ignore the fact that it’ll jolly near bankrupt the country in the process.  A billion pounds is a lot of money, it’s a thousand million pounds, it looks so ridiculous when you write it out (£1,000,000,000) that it’s written ‘£1bn’ even in the broadsheets, to save column inches.  We’re not talking about a paltry sum here, it’s a whopping billion.  No word yet on exactly where it’s going, just that it’s to:
 “showcase to the world the amazing range of attractions and experiences this country offers”
according to Culture Secretary Jerry Hunt. I wonder if he is planning to make a scale replica of Britain and take it on tour around the world with  a staff of thousands... no, wait, even that couldn’t cost £1bn!  It’s no wonder he made the announcement at 3.30pm on a Friday, even he suspected that this spending isn’t the best of ideas.

Now we’ve got that out of the way let’s review what we do know about where our hard earned tax pounds are going: it’s to boost tourism.  Britain is not some small, unknown country.  By virtue of the fact that we are an island nation tourists do not normally happen upon us as part of some wider journey, they generally decide to come here with some conviction.  Tourists know Britain is here, and they know what they want to see if they want to come.  Pick up any guidebook and you’ll see there is a wealth of information about loads of stuff to do and places to stay across the UK, it’s not like there is a risk that tourists will be short of ideas.  On top of that we’re hosting the Olympics in 2012.  Athletes and reporters from around the world will HAVE to come here, whether they like it or not.  The sporting eyes of the world will be on London in 2012, what more of a boost does Britain need than an international ad campaign?

At a time when the government is talking about making £6bn in spending cuts with one hand, it seems beyond foolhardy to dish out £1bn for a glorified PR offensive with the other. 

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