The Olympic Legacy

Urban myth has it that every London cabbie is the oracle of all knowledge. We are often asked on how the trade is going; bankers and fund managers it would seem regard us as a barometer of London’s business. Now I don’t for a moment think that after a short chat with a cabbie our customers take an option on, say Russian wheat or buy shares in Acme mousetraps, but the question is asked all the same.

[S]imilarly politicians want to test the water on their latest madcap proposals on cab drivers. Tony Benn famously asks of cabbies “What were you BEFORE you became cab driver?” the replies presumably are then entered into his famous daily diary.

The questions being asked are not to test our encyclopaedic knowledge, or to strike up a lasting friendship, but while sitting in a cab, or in many cabs, they have an opportunity to see what the public are thinking or how they are spending their money.

Economists define this as discretionary spend. The amount of an individual’s income that is left for spending, investing or saving after taxes and personal necessities have been paid. Discretionary income includes money spent on luxury items, vacations and non-essential goods and services and is usually measured in cash spent.

As sitting in the back of a cab or dining in a restaurant can be seen as an unnecessary expenditure they are a good indicator of a city’s wealth.

When the London 2012 Olympics were announced we were promised an unprecedented boost to the economy, but I have to report to our enquiring passengers the reality has been the reverse.

Since the opening ceremony cabbies takings have taken a nosedive. But before you dismiss this as yet another cabbie rant, consider this: our takings have almost halved, similarly restaurants in the West End, who have taken on extra staff for night time deliveries, have seen a sharp fall in covers, hotels are offering huge discounts and theatre audiences have seen a fall in numbers.

All of these are receivers of discretionary spend, spare money spent on luxuries.

Returning to the bankers and fund managers in the back of my cab, if they extrapolate from my answers the state of London’s economy then the capital’s finances in recent weeks has taken a nose dive.

The Games organisers will argue that many have taken their advice and stayed away from work – and they are correct. Even with the Olympic Lanes in force London’s roads are less congested than they have been in years.

With the Games set to last until mid-September, like the fund managers, I have to question how much this has cost the economy of London.

I might not be John Maynard Keynes but I do know that with Britain’s fragile economic state we can ill afford to have a stagnant London.

2 thoughts on “The Olympic Legacy”

  1. Nice analysis of politicians and vox pop etc, but I knew that there would be a dip during the Games due to the gainsayers getting an unfair share of column inches and air time to talk down the thing before they started. This is a British sport that they do sadly excel at.
    Yes, taxi drivers suffered a loss in, let’s remember, the quitest month of the year. I availed myself of the chance to chauffeur during the Games for (a) the chance to experience one fo the greatest London events in my lifetime and (b) because I knew it would be quiet and the chauffeur money was guaranteed.
    While on this job, I witnessed many taxis being hired out permanently to TV companies etc, which made me ponder why more of us had not been as enterprising? We have the internet, can print business cards for next to nothing and we’ve known this was coming for many years. Too many of us think the world owes us a living. The growth of PH will tell you that people are not interested in London traditions and conventions as we older drivers were brought up within.
    Despite never having voted Tory, I salute Seb Coe for his tenacity and influence in pulling this whole thing off. London smashed it, the greatest city in the World. Celebrate that fact.
    The lagacy we shall feel. Indded, it has been a Keynsian triumph. would we prefer to see Paris or Madrid benefit from such enormous investment?
    London looked amazing in the rare sunshine that bathed us for all but two days. Tourists will flock here in years to come on the back of it. If you work at weekends, look at the mostly French, Italian and Spanish tourists here on city breaks.
    Our infrastructure is immensely better, East london has a different demographis make-up now, work will be spread out. It’s ours to gain and protect.


    1. I must admit I’ve seen an uplift in tourists to London over Christmas. I too was offered a job helping a company miss the bottlenecks around London during the Olympics. I turned it down . . . Ho, hum!


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