By Duncan Mackay at the Tower Hotel in London

Virgin_London_Marathon_in_front_of_Buckingham_PalaceApril 15 - An extra £100 million ($163 million) is pumped into Britain's economy each year thanks for the Virgin London Marathon, which last year attracted a field of 36,549, a new report into the economic impact of the event has discovered.

The London Marathon generated £110.1 million ($179.8 million) of economic activity in the UK last year while spending in the capital by marathon runners, spectators, organisers and visitors was worth £31.7 million ($51.7 million), the report claimed.

Researchers from the Sport Industry Research Centre at Sheffield Hallam University interviewed thousands of people and businesses before, during and after the event last year and conducted an online survey of runners and volunteers.

"The Virgin London Marathon remains a jewel in the sporting calendar as one of the largest mass participation events in the UK," the report said.

"This research confirms that apart from being a wonderful sporting spectacle and celebration of the human spirit, the event is also a commercially successful business venture."

London Marathon officials, predictably, welcomed the findings of the new research.

"This research proves what we've always known, that the London Marathon makes a positive contribution not only to London's economy but to the economy of the UK as a whole," said Nick Bitel, the chief executive of the London Marathon, which this year takes place on Sunday (April 17).

"Every year the event attracts thousands of people to the capital and boosts spending in a number of sectors, but the report shows that it has a wider impact too, contributing to the UK's economy as a whole."

The figure represents a 60 per cent increase in the Marathon's economic importance for the UK over 10 years since it was last measured in 2000.

The London accommodation and catering sectors benefit most from the Marathon, to the tune of £13.2 million ($21.5 million) last year.

Runners and spectators spent more than £45 million in the UK, £18 million ($29 million) of which was spent by runners preparing for "arguably one of the greatest human challenges they will face".

That amounts to an average of £452 ($739) spent by each runner on running shoes, kit, other races, and training, while spectators, including runners' friends and families, spent £4.9 million ($8.1 million) on accommodation and £8.2 million ($13.4 million) on food and drink.

Taken together, runners and spectators were responsible for 83 per cent of the economic impact on London.

UK charities also benefit enormously with £50 million ($82 million) raised for charity in 2010, double the amount raised in 2000, while the UK balance of trade saw net export figures grow by £3.85 million ($6.29 million) thanks to marathon-related spending from overseas' visitors and television rights holders.

This "small but nonetheless significant" effect is up from £1.1 million ($1.8 million) in 2000.

Researchers found that 70 per cent of businesses on the marathon route were busier than on a normal Sunday, while 68 per cent increased their Sunday takings and 76 per cent felt the marathon had a positive effect on trade.

A third of route-side pubs reported Marathon Sunday to be their "busiest day of the year", while 90 per cent had increased takings and 95 per cent believed the marathon had a positive impact.

More than two-thirds of convenience stores and more than three-quarters of cafes and coffee shops were busier than on a typical Sunday.

"The London Marathon is a truly global sporting event, attracting runners from around the world whilst providing a spectacular day for the watching millions both along its iconic route and at home on television," said London Mayor Boris Johnson. 

"This report confirms that major events like the Marathon deliver huge benefits to the capital's economy and to the UK as a whole.

"It reaffirms the impressive financial value of the event, although of course the London Marathon is about much more than income generation.

"There is no doubt in my mind that its true worth to London and the nation also includes the sheer sense of pride and the 'feelgood factor' it undoubtedly generates."

Sport and Olympics Minister Hugh Robertson proclaimed the findings as further proof of the London Marathon's worldwide appeal.

"The London Marathon has a worldwide following and is one of this country's premier sporting events," he said.

"This report shows the positive financial impact that the race brings to London and other parts of the country, not only on the day but also in the weeks leading up to the event.

"It is also the perfect opportunity to showcase the capital as the wonderful city that it is, and it raises a tremendous amount of money for a number of charities that benefit people both in the UK and overseas."

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