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London spins gold with tourism numbers

Oct 16, 2012, 10:07 AM EDT

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Let the London Olympics Economics Games Begin!

Whatever happens during an Olympics, it takes some time to accurately measure how successful a Games was for the host city. Lots of questions have to be answered about the long-term viability of the permanent venues; the success or failure of the typical revitalization of the neighborhoods that usually surround the Olympic Village; and, perhaps most importantly, the short- and long-term economic benefits to the host city and nation.

The tally on the economic piece of that puzzle is starting to filter in and how one reads the verdict depends on how they view interior volumes of half-full drinking glasses. That’s because, according to figures out last week, instead of getting an Olympic bump in tourism London actually saw seven percent fewer visitors to the capital city than in 2011.

Yet, despite that disappointing figure, tourism revenue actually hit an all-time high in August: 2.38 billion pounds (that’s 3.82 billion dollars to you Americans out there).

Analysts claim that the jump in revenue was the result of those visitors who did come spent their money freely. Very freely, actually: Average spending in London during August was supposedly over 1,000 pounds a second (there’s no sense in applying the pound-dollar conversion rate for such an odd statistic).

Naturally the British government and tourism officials are taking the positive spin on this and chalking this up in the “London 2012 Games Were A Smashing, Historic Success – Hooray For Great Britain!” category. Grumpy British sourpusses are putting it in the “We Beg To Differ – Politely, Of Course, Because We’re British” column, and one particularly dour Briton who lives and dies by the tourism trade flatly refused to accept the government’s shiny, happy view of the numbers.

“From pubs, to theatres, to shops and taxi drivers, there is not a single person I have spoken to since the Olympics that did not suffer,” he told The Independent. “The Games were a roaring success – it’s a great shame that we can’t say the same for British tourism in 2012.”

It’s unclear where all of the extra money spent went if not to pubs, theatre, shops and taxi drivers, but it seems likely that this guy is more concerned with the amount of oxygen than beer in his pint glass when he goes out drinking. Maybe because he doesn’t have a ton of money to throw around right now.

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