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Last Updated: Thursday, 9 March 2006, 13:25 GMT
North West: Going for gold
Steve Rawling
The Politics Show North West

Olympic Games 'could create up to 10bn'

Going for gold - will the North West benefit from the London Olympics?

Thousands of athletes from across the world are arriving in the Australian city of Melbourne - where the 2006 Commonwealth Games are about to open.

The Commonwealth Games are enjoying a renaissance which is largely attributed to the success of the Manchester games in 2002.

Cities like Glasgow are now bidding to host the Commonwealth Games in 2014, on the strength of the regeneration benefits hosting a big sporting event can bring.

But what about the biggest event of all - the Olympic Games?

Will the rest of the UK benefit from London's Games in 2012?

One North West MP describes the decision to give the Games to London as "a disaster" for the English regions.

But supporters of the Games say it's up to the region to make the most of the potential economic spin-off, not whinge on the sidelines.

The sheer scale of the investment going in to the London Olympics is impressive. 2.375bn has been earmarked to stage the Games.

Some 1.5bn is expected to come from the National Lottery.

The rest will come from council tax payers in London and the London Development Agency.

On top of that, the Games provide the impetus for much needed infrastructure improvements in the Lower Lea Valley area.

But with construction schemes like Crossrail, improvements to Tube lines, even Olympic cycle-lanes running to billions of pounds, there are critics in the North West worried that the region is going to lose out on much needed investment.

"When I saw that London had got the Olympics, I thought 'there goes our tram'", says Tim Dugdill, Chairman of Knowsley Chamber of Commerce.

Months later, the Department of Transport pulled the plug on Merseytram, saying the local councils had failed to give sufficient financial guarantees.

But in Knowsley, there is suspicion that the need to fund the London Games underlay the decision.

"London was successful, they won the Games and there is no point whingeing on the sidelines," says Peter Mearns, from the North West Development Agency (NWDA).

"We need to work with them to make sure the North West enjoys some of the benefits."

The NWDA reckons the Games will be good for the region if it can attract tourists after they have visited London and if local companies bid for Games-related contracts.

The North West can also build on its famous sporting heritage and facilities by hosting training camps for some of the competing nations.

But at least one of the region's MPs remains unconvinced.

Graham Stringer, the Labour MP for Manchester Blackley, says the decision to give the Games to London was a disaster for the rest of the UK.

What do you think? Will the region benefit or lose out to London in the run up to the 2012 Games?

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