The UK was a different country seven years ago when London was selected as host city for the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics.
It is not surprising that, having gone back into recession following the banking crisis of 2008, attitudes to the Olympics have run the gamut from initial elation through cynicism at the promised benefits, despair at the G4S shambles to one of growing anticipation.
It is now clear, for example, that the threat of strike action on Thursday, the day before the opening ceremony, by UK Border Agency staff has put the PCS union on the wrong side of public opinion. The most commonly expressed view is that, however legitimate their concerns, this is not the time for a strike by the first British officials visitors meet when they arrive in the country. That seems to have been realised by the union's general secretary Mark Serwotka, who said yesterday that they are prepared to go to Acas and there is still time to avert a strike.
In the current economic climate, it is right that concerns about the £9 billion cost of the games are aired. David Cameron has put the economic benefit from staging the games in London at £13bn. That includes the immediate spending by visitors during the Olympics and Paralympics and contracts gained through international business meetings held in London. Some of this will be spin-off from Olympics-related contracts for which the games will act as a showcase but Government ministers and British companies are also gearing up for a "schmoozathon" effort to clinch international deals.
It is natural that Scots feel they will gain little or nothing from their contribution to the billions poured into the London games but Alex Salmond and Scottish ministers will rightly host events to promote Scottish business, increase exports and secure investment in Scotland.
How many initiatives begun or deals sealed in these circumstances would have happened anyway is impossible to know but the world's attention will be focused on Britain over the next few weeks and that provides an opportunity to promote Scotland, which, despite the return to recession, has world-class products ranging from food and drink to engineering and medical research. There is also considerable potential for additional tourism when Glasgow hosts the Commonwealth Games in 2014.
It is essential that Scotland assimilates the lessons of the glitches in the run-up to London 2012. There can be no excuse now for not ensuring the security operation recruits adequate numbers of people and trains them in good time or that the process of getting tickets is simpler. The high cost of holding international sporting events on this scale is justified by the legacy of high grade facilities for the host city. It has not always been achieved: Athens has seen little benefit but Atlanta provides a model for regeneration through new sporting facilities and a much-used large park. In London the new housing, business facilities and transport links are intended to attract people and jobs to a run-down area and that is the plan for Glasgow's east end, which already has new facilities, such as the Sir Chris Hoy velodrome.
Despite the debacle over security and the heavy-handed policing of sponsors' rights, the Olympic torch has been cheered round the British Isles by tens of thousands acknowledging the many ordinary people nominated for service to the community who have played their part in carrying the flame. In that Olympic spirit we can all look forward to Friday's opening ceremony and a festival of sporting achievement.
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