Olympic legacy questioned by UK small businesses
U.K. businesses in close proximity to 2012's Olympic Games have given a damning verdict on the economic impact of the Games, branding them "rubbish" and "worthless".
With exactly a year passing since the Olympic flame was lit over the skies of London, small businesses, including entertainment and retail outlets have told CNBC of the lack of impact the Games had on footfall, revenues and development.
"It's done more harm than good," Chris Hinton who works at Leggs Butchers and Deli in Custom House, a stone's throw from the Excel Center which was home to the judo, wrestling and fencing events.
"There was no extra footfall, and no economic benefit. If you ask any of the shop owners round here they will tell you the same."
Next door, at the Pacific Fish Bar the feeling was similar: "We were expecting more customers to come from the Excel Center, but they didn't. It was very quiet, it had no impact at all."
But just over twenty yards away from this parade of shops it was a very different story. Will, the manager of independent bar and restaurant The Fox@Excel spoke of huge crowds during the two-week event with customers filling the venue from 6 a.m. till midnight every day.
"It was the busiest I've ever seen it," he told CNBC, adding that security staff were ushering tourists and sports fans past his bar into the sports arenas but away from local shops like those in Custom House.
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This growing divide can be seen all over the borough of Newham, the local authority where the Olympic stadium is situated. Newham - which one of the poorest parts of the capital - now has world class sports stadia, transport infrastructure worth £6.5 billion and boasts Europe's largest urban shopping center called Westfield.
In a report released last week, the U.K. government said it calculated the U.K. had enjoyed a £9.9 billion boost to trade and investment. This includes £5.9 billion of sales from conferences, 2.5 billion of additional inward investment and £1.5 billion of contracts for forthcoming Olympics. Spending by foreign tourists also rose by £600 million in 2012, it said.
For some close to last year's event, that Olympic euphoria felt by the nation quickly disappeared into disappointment.
"It was quite disastrous for our business," said Sonia Williams, owner of Caribbean restaurant Calabash which is just over a kilometer from the Olympic Park. "People weren't able to drive in, they had to take public transport and once they got to Westfield they were a captured audience. There was McDonald's and the other big food chains and that had a bad impact on us."
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A little further afield in Upton Park – four kilometers away for the stadium the feeling was even worse, with Nadeem Hussain who owns both a greengrocer's and a fast food outlet telling CNBC that the Games were "rubbish" for his businesses. "They said it would be good for businesses, nothing happened," he said.
Two streets away, in a shopping market in Upton Park the concern has now turned to the local soccer team - West Ham United - which will fill the vacant space in Stratford's Olympic Park, taking away any footfall that the market had left.
"Some places got nicer like Stratford and the Olympic Park, but the market hasn't changed," the owner of Moon Store told CNBC, a shop selling household goods and kitchenware.
"The train came past Upton Park, but no-one got off. I was expecting more, more people to come, but it didn't happen," he said.