Region 'could lose £500m' due to Games

THE East of England could end up losing more than £500million as a direct result of the Olympic Games unless action is taken, a new report has claimed.

By Roddy Ashworth

THE East of England could end up losing more than £500million as a direct result of the Olympic Games unless action is taken, a new report has claimed.

The potential cost to the region - estimated at £544 million - could be caused by increased wages, business relocation, a loss of non-Olympic visitors and people moving to other areas.

The study, carried out on behalf of the East of England Regional Assembly (EERA), was published shortly after the Government admitted that nationally the cost of the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic games had risen almost four-fold, to £9.33 billion.

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But yesterday a leading figure in EERA said that as long as businesses, individuals and local authorities worked together, the region could actually gain more than £600 million from the games - but this would not happen without intervention.

Last year an economic impact study reported that the region could see noticeable economic and social benefits providing key areas were addressed.

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These include raising the area's tourism profile, making sure regional businesses were ready to bid for Olympic opportunities, improving relevant local skills, increasing participation in sport, improving infrastructure and encouraging games-related volunteering.

Chris White, deputy chairman of the assembly, said yesterday: “I feel confident this potential loss can be turned into a gain.

“But the Olympics offer a huge opportunity which will not work for us if we don't actively take it.

“The main area we can benefit from is tourism. If we can persuade people to get out of London and into the countryside there is money to be made. We need to improve our tourist image.

“We need to work together with providers to make sure we offer a good service, and that is linked to skills, concentrating specifically on hospitality skills.

“There are huge construction contracts and huge contracts for running the games, running up from now until 2012. Small businesses in the east of England will not get these, but the sub-contracting would allow them to get involved.

“I think it is up to everybody. We are not asking for superhuman efforts. But there are things businesses, individuals and councils need to do.”

On Thursday the rise of the London 2012 Olympic budget to £9.33 billion was defended by ministers in the face of a backlash over the use of Lottery funds.

Sports Minister Richard Caborn said the Government was being “prudent” by building in a £2.7 million contingency fund it hoped not to use.

But he would not give any assurance that the final sum might not be higher still.

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