It's finally here: The 2012 Summer Olympics will kick off on Friday, and London certainly seems ready. According to Reuters, Friday's opening ceremonies will feature Britain's largest peacetime security operation—a necessity given recent events and concerns. Other potential issues include the city's historic transportation system (which has been expanded to get the crowds to—or away from—the games). But it is worth noting that the Asia-Pacific Foundation report pointed out that Britain has a "very successful track record" in hosting major sports events.
And it is also worth noting that hotel rooms and tickets to games are still available. London-based consultant David Tarsh says that plenty of seats are available for the soccer (called football in most parts of the world outside of America) matches, for example, since the individual UK countries already have very strong football clubs, and the team put together for the Olympics won't draw the same dedicated fans that Manchester United attracts, for example.
As for hotel rooms, Tarsh feels that the city did not need the influx of development it has seen in recent years. "A lot of the bigger, central hotels got booked by the Olympic committee early on," he told Travel Agent. "The organizing committee got good rates for the Olympic family. Now the hotel are seeking corporate rates for the leisure market." In addition, he says that the city's hotels are enforcing unusual terms, including payment upfront, no refunds and no cancelations. "For tour operators, it's too risky," Tarsh says. "They have to pay upfront with no guarantee that they'll sell." As such, he says, bookings for London are down during the Games, but up for other European cities.
But what about after the Games are over? While the city is—quite reasonably—expecting the Games to promote future tourism to the city, Tarsh thinks that this may not happen. In a 2007 report, the European Tour Operators Association pointed out that for the 2004 Games, Athens invested heavily in new infrastructure, including an airport, roads and public transport system. New hotels, however, were not a priority, and with a smaller supply, demand was at a premium. Occupancy average room rates both increased. Ultimately, Athens recorded a combined rate and occupancy surge of five times the normal figure. But the occupancy levels in Greece for August as a whole declined. Not only did occupancy drop, but demand for Athens suffered throughout the year. The report also notes that after the 2000 Olympics, Sydney had three successive years of decline.
But for travelers, this can be great news. Tarsh believes that late August will be a prime time to visit. "There will be tons of rooms and the prices will all be down," he says. "London is on sale. There won't be a better time to go," he says.