Cost For Olympic Gold Editorial

August 7th, 2012

Cost For Olympic Gold

By QUINTON E BOSMAN.

LONDON- Tourism is not a new concept to London. Each year millions of visitors come to visit the world famous city to experience a multitude of historic sites and British culture. With a recent spike in popularity from the royal wedding, England once again has taken center stage in the world as it hosts the Olympic games for the third time. As a town known for pomp and circumstance, the Olympics are sure to bring bragging rights back to the rainy city. Pride does come at a significant cost however. With a substantial increase in tourist foot traffic, that means more hotels, restaurants and stores accommodating the masses. This should translate into a sizable gain for England’s economy. There are many factors however, that go along with making sure the risk of hosting the Olympics is worth the reward. Considering shaky trends from cities who have hosted the Olympic games in the past, London is no exception. Vendors may see a temporary increase in revenue, but what is the lasting effect for other facets of the city?

Naturally, hosting the Olympic games brings an opportunity to see increased revenue from tourists. Arguably the biggest to benefit from the increase are street vendors and local shop owners. Vincent Branfield, a local vendor expresses early concerns about the Olympic crowds and the effects on business:

“At first I was pretty nervous for the games to get here with all the crowds and everything. I wasn’t sure if that would scare away customers but it definitely hasn’t. It’s crazy how many people I’ve seen in this past week alone.”

Branfield, who sells London souvenirs made it clear that part of his increase comes from tourists who are looking to bring home keepsakes from London but not pay prices for official Olympic souvenirs. As the official Olympic gear has been trademarked, many vendors have opted to sell more traditional souvenirs, a tactic that according to Branfield, may be the only way to survive.

Seeing an increase in revenue from souvenirs does not necessarily translate into a substantial gain for the city or its residents. Many commuters, shop owners and local residents have become more complacent due to the increase in tourist spending. While vendors can go to where the action is, shop owners cannot. Instead they must promote the Olympics wherever they can. This also adds to a false sense of revenue gain for the city. Outward gains are concentrated on Olympic apparel and London souvenirs, which leaves businesses who have no ties to the games, out in the cold. The BBC recently referenced a figure from Experian that showed on Tuesday, foot traffic in East London had fallen by 9.6% from last year and West London by 4.5%. This does not mean that retailers have not tried different tactics. Throughout Regent street storefronts are completely decorated with Olympic decorations and even supportive flyers for team GB. Apple has even gone as far as to release free Olympic iPad and iPhone pins everyday during the games. These tactics should offset tourist concentration in East London, however they have not completely held successful as of yet.

Now consider local employees who have even less ties to the games than shop owners. Many of the business districts in London become overcrowded with tourists, mainly sightseeing or using public transportation. Deniz Karatepe, a London press officer recounts past struggles with getting to work.

“There are times where people can’t even fit on the tube. I’ve never seen that before. It’s just an extra hassle for everybody, and are we really making that much money off of it?”

The games have brought massive attention to London, however it seems to be concentrated in particular areas only. Vendors have garnered much of the tourist attention while local shops and retailers have seen a drop off. Only after the final medal count and when the flames of the Olympic torch are extinguished will we see whether hosting the Olympic games was a major win or loss for London.

A Fire Will Rise – Quinton Bosman

I can’t say I knew we were this close to the 20th Century Fox building, but what a fitting discovery for the day! The building is located in the Soho section of the city and to be honest it seems pretty normal. Nothing special, just employees in cubicles staring at pictures of their families.

Today was a more relaxing day, we have set ourselves up for success by doing a lot of our work during the earlier weeks. We got treated to a special showing of The Dark Knight Rises by Professor Mooney today at the Science Museum. Best theatre lobby ever.

Also found this guy at Covent Garden…

¡Barcelona! – Quinton Bosman

In the midst of the Olympic craziness, I decided to escape to Barcelona for a little while. The city known for it’s inventive architecture and beautiful beaches was still buzzing with Olympic fever. There is no escape! Honestly who would want to escape the Games? Everyone was talking about them. There wasn’t a bar or cafe that didn’t have the events on the television screen.

I did notice a large number of British tourists who claimed that they had been country hoping to try to avoid the madness in their hometown of London. I noticed them in the Barceloneta section of the city which featured a dock full of ships and restaurants. It also had an amazing view of the Monseratt.

I couldn’t help but compare Barcelona to London, the entire time I was there. I have always loved Spain, but now England has a special place in my heart. One major difference however is the beach. Nothing beats a great beach. Barcelona has seven. Sorry London.

Controversial Harrods – Quinton Bosman

One of the places that is a few blocks away from our flat is Harrods department store. It is famous for luxury brands, a vast food court and amazing architecture. I have never seen anything like it in my life. I can’t believe people actually buy things from this place, but they have been in business since 1849 so they must be doing something right.

The prices were astronomical. We saw a couch worth $32,000. The mirror below cost $17,000.

One of the most interesting things I found in the store was a small memorial to Princess Diana. In all honesty there are plenty of times where I have forgotten that she is no longer with us. A book was laid out for patrons to sign along with a beautiful statue created in her honor.

Harrods, along with many other vendors, is displaying a tribute to the Korean culture festival with a set of Korean robots in the window. The festival is meant to showcase Korean culture such as art, technology, religion and politics. The robots may have been the strangest things I have seen so far in London. They reminded me of the episode of “Family Matters” where Steve Urkel turned into a robot. The robots in the display were all sad for some reason and they made the slowest, most awkward movements possible.

So lets get to the controversial part…

We all know and love Harrods for their luxury design and amusement park-like experience but what happens when protests begin outside of the beloved establishment? While it is clear that Harrods continues to sell fur in their store, it is unclear how that fur is obtained. Animal lovers around the world will of course side against the use of fur anywhere but even more shocking is the idea of who the trades are affecting. In what protestors call the “bloody fur trade” Harrods is accused of trading with Qatar. Harrods is the only department store in the UK to still sell real fur since it has been banned. Technically the fur is not “made” in the UK so it is still legal, however most stores have chosen not to sell at all.

So Much to Do So Little Time – Quinton Bosman

I can’t believe we are entering the last week of the program. It really only feels like yesterday that we were all sitting in a fancy Moroccan restaurant introducing ourselves to London after a long day of traveling and touring. It is also surprising that we only have two live shows left. The shows have been such a success. I remember being extremely nervous before the first show. We were all on edge due to it being our first live endeavor and a few technical difficulties. Now that it is almost time to go home, of course we all feel like pros. The show, our transitions and communication back home with Philly have all been so much smoother since that first day.

We still have a lot ahead of us. We have two live shows to prepare for, two editorials and of course The Dark Knight Rises in 3D IMAX. Can’t wait for that one. Unfortunately this last week also has a forecast of some pretty bad weather. We are finally experiencing the rain that London is known for. More famous than fish and chips, the Queen and the Beefeaters combined, everyone knows that London has pretty terrible weather. The last time I was here it rained almost every day. It can be pretty depressing. Luckily we haven’t seen too much of that during our stay.

Somehow I forgot to add this picture from yesterday. I came upon a strange globe in the middle of town that looks like it landed there from outer space. I’m not sure if you are supposed to do this but tourists loved touching it. I don’t trust it.

Victoria and Albert Museum – Quinton Bosman

Outside the Victoria and Albert Museum, very close to where we are staying.

The museum was full of massive, beautiful paintings and sculptures like this one from Great Britain.

One patron must have had a long day in the museum as she falls asleep in front of a picture from the early 1600’s.

Ancient pot from China, believed to be from about 1300 AD.

To Wimbledon and Beyond – Quinton Bosman

So far the most crowded area we have ventured to is Wimbledon. Currently, the acclaimed Roger Federer is competing in what could be the longest Olympic tennis match in history!

Two american tourists pose in front of the incredibly fun M&M candy store

A park near the Embankment subway station is modeled after a traditional ocean front.

A View From Above – Quinton Bosman

Founded in 1951, The Original Bus tour takes tourists throughout the city of London highlighting all the major sights. I stayed on the bus for about two hours by accident.

Lions have been placed on the British coat of arms for years. Their popularity has grown since it has become the mascot for the GB team during the Olympics.

The London Eye was viewable at almost every stop on the tour!

Tower Bridge was actually the most crowded part of the tour. Many people confuse it with  London Bridge. Note the retracted Olympic rings.