London - The London Olympics are Britain's best chance
to sell itself for more than 150 years, a government official declared on
Speaking nine days before the Games open, Alan Collins, the managing
director for Olympic Legacy at UK Trade and Investment, said he was confident
they would help Britain attract £6bn (€7.6bn, $9.4bn)
in investment by 2016.
"This is the best opportunity since the Great Exhibition of 1851 to
show off Britain," Collins told a press conference.
The 1851 Great Exhibition at Crystal Palace in London was the first in a
series of World's Fair exhibitions of culture and industry that were popular in
the 19th century and early 20th century.
London estimates that a campaign of tourism to promote Britain built around
last year's royal wedding, Queen Elizabeth II's diamond jubilee this year and
the Olympics will attract 4.6 million extra visitors between 2011 and 2015.
But Britain's tourism chief hit out at the country's "utter
obsession" with the weather, saying foreign visitors do not come to the
United Kingdom for beach holidays.
Sandie Dawe, chief executive of Visit Britain, brushed off concerns that
weeks of heavy rain would deter visitors to the Games.
"It is only the Brits that have a complete and utter obsession with our
weather," she told the press conference.
"The rest of the world are less interested.
"Frankly, people do not come here to lie on a beach. That is not our offer.
"They come for culture, sightseeing, and they come all times of the
Dawe said the greenness of Britain was "balm to the eyes" of
visitors from the Middle East.
"It is never too hot, it is never too cold here to do sightseeing and
enjoy the attractions," she said.
However, she added: "Anyway, the sun is going to come out, have you
seen the long-range weather forecast? It will."
Recession-hit Britain felt a mini-boost from the Olympics on Wednesday when
figures showed the unemployment rate fell to 8.1% in May from 8.2% in April, as the job market was boosted by temporary hiring for the
Howard Archer, chief European economist at IHS Global Insight research
group, said the "imminent holding of the Olympic Games is currently providing
a boost to employment," in addition to other factors.
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