As I write, the Olympic games are entering their final few days in London and I am reminded how short this festival of sport really is – barely more than two weeks. Were someone to build a theme park or attraction with even a fraction of the London 2012 budget, more than £10 billion ($15.6bn/€12.7bn) according to some estimates, they would surely expect to open it for longer than 17 days.
This is of course why so much emphasis is being placed on “legacy” – the boost that it is hoped will benefit regeneration projects, infrastructure, sporting initiatives and tourism in the years to come as a result of the spotlight being shone this summer on London (not that it’s usually in the dark).
We will have to wait and see if the opening ceremony impressed the themed entertainment industry in the same way as the 2008 spectacular in Beijing, which picked up a Thea Award. In the meantime, the short-term impact on attractions in the capital and around the UK appears somewhat mixed.
Hats off to the Mellors Group, a fairground/event organiser that “struck gold’” by erecting a temporary observation wheel at Victoria Park, close to Olympic Park, where many fans gathered to watch the sporting action on large screens. Yet official announcements warning of large crowds and traffic chaos only served to leave other parts of London deserted.
“Undoubtedly the level of early Government warnings telling people to stay out of the capital and other Olympic locations significantly impacted normal visitation patterns,” highlights a spokesperson for Merlin Entertainments, which was hoping to capitalise on events in Weymouth, where its new Sea Life observation tower offered a bird’s eye view of the sailing.
At the instigation of the organisations including BALPPA, the controversial announcements were eventually dropped, and attractions operators kept their fingers crossed for returning crowds.
During the second weekend of the games I called in at Flamingo Land in North Yorkshire, more than four hours north of London, where there was an encouraging number of families enjoying the rides and attractions in the sun.
“It’s possible that some people may have been enjoying free cultural events rather than other attractions, however I think the weather still influences a lot,” notes BALPPA chief executive Jeremy Reed. “It’s been a rotten summer up until now, which has been great for some our members with indoor attractions, however it’s still all to play for and we won’t really know the full impact on business – whether as a result of the weather or the Olympics – until September.”
Owen Ralph – Editor, Park World