Ghost Town: London Businesses Bemoan Olympic Slump

2012 London Olympics
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The slump is not confined to the West End. Greenwich in southeast London, home to the Olympic equestrian competition, usually draws hordes of tourists to its lovely riverside park and historic sites including the Royal Observatory and the tea clipper Cutty Sark.

Peter Vlachos, a marketing expert at the University of Greenwich, has been surveying local businesses about the impact of the games. "One word came back: Disaster," he said.

"There are 23,000 people walking past (local shops) in the morning to get to the grounds, and at the end of the day the same 23,000 people rushing back to their hotels," he said.

"The Olympics were sold to the business community as if it was going to be a huge windfall, and it hasn't materialized."

The government insists the situation is less bleak than business are making it sound.

Britain's Olympic Cabinet committee, a daily conclave of ministers, games officials and transport authorities, was told Wednesday that there were some signs London was actually busier than usual — although "there has been some displacement of crowds from parts of the west to the east end."

"It is important to look at the big picture — the games are a global advert for London with benefits that will be reaped for many years," the government said in a statement.

Johnson, the mayor, is similarly defiant, insisting that "many, many thousands of people are flowing into London, the hotels are busy, the Olympic venues are attracting huge numbers."

"These games are a one-off, an opportunity like no other to show London to the world," Johnson said.

If the world shows up, that is. But for Londoners, at least, there's an upside.

"It's a bit relaxed," said teacher Sonya McCullough, standing in an unusually short line at the half-price theater ticket booth in Leicester Square. "It's brilliant."

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Paisley Dodds contributed to this report. Jill Lawless can be reached at http://Twitter.com/JillLawless

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