OPINION - London is the best place to stay for the Paris Olympics — we don't have bedbugs

 (Bloomberg via Getty Images)
(Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Barely a day goes by without someone prominent proclaiming that this summer London is going to be the overspill city of the Olympics. In fact, we’ve carried many pieces about it ourselves. Come on in, we say, the water’s lovely (considering the country’s sewage problem, London’s drinking water is certainly better than the water in Paris), and we don’t have bed bugs! Not French ones, anyway.

And now it’s not just Londoners who are saying this, it’s the French themselves. Last week, Bénédicte Epinay, head of the luxury industry group Comite Colbert (which exists solely to promote French luxury brands), said that the Olympics would be a “terrible period for business and culture. There’s a big question mark around the event, but one that is tinged with concern.” This is a fear shared by many in the luxury sector, worried that a) potential customers are going to be too preoccupied with the event to actually go out and shop, and b) that the vast numbers of Olympic tourists will make the Parisian shopping experience even worse than it is already. One French industry expert told me last week: “Shopping in Paris is going to be a nightmare. No one is going to want to have a big cardboard shopping bag banging against their legs when the centre of the city is full of hordes of people in backpacks and shorts. It’s just not a very French experience.”

No one I know is going to the Olympics, as they know it’ll be a bunfight. Much better to stay in London

Indeed. When Parisians are worried about their inability to shop with purpose or style then you really know they’re in trouble. Unsurprisingly, London retailers are rubbing their hands with barely disguised glee at the huge opportunities this throws up. Michael Ward, the sagacious managing director of Harrods, expects to have a bumper summer because of the consumer mayhem across the Channel. “You can’t actually get down Avenue Montaigne for certain weeks of the Olympics,” he said a few days ago, as he did heel kicks all the way down the Brompton Road, throwing his bowler hat in the air and spinning on a sixpence.

Just last week, at the opening of the London Games Festival at Coutts, several luxury PRs were talking up the shopping opportunities in London this summer. “It’s going to be properly Billy Bonkers,” one said, with a massive Sloane Street smile. “No one I know is going to Paris for the Olympics, as they know it’ll be a bunfight. Much better to stay in London and spend all their money here!”

They all have a point. Luxury shopping should be a luxury experience, which is why the golden age of luxury online retail appears to be fading into the past. It’s all very well being able to press a few buttons and have a dozen pairs of shoes arrive at your house before you’ve put your credit card away, but it doesn’t beat the experience of wandering down Bond Street or popping into Selfridges and dropping a small fortune (that you probably can’t afford) on something bold and glitzy and wonderfully expensive. It’s called spontaneity. Luxury shopping isn’t really a considered experience, which is why it’s always more fun to go hunting on foot.

Frankly, I’ve never particularly enjoyed shopping in Paris, but not for the reasons you might think (shop assistants are rude all over the world, not just on the Champs-Élysées). Many years ago, I went to visit my good friend Robin Derrick, when he was working for French Condé Nast. That night he had taken me out to dinner in Chinatown, before going on to Les Bains Douches, the famous Parisian nightclub, where we spent the night dancing with Madonna (OK, OK, where we spent the night dancing with Madonna’s security guards). The next day, hideously hungover, we went shopping, with Robin buying a ridiculously expensive designer suit (it was, I think, green, and not a good green, either). It needed altering, and so Robin took it to what he thought was his local dry cleaners. Turned out it wasn’t anywhere near his flat, he lost the ticket and never saw the suit again.

And that, for me, is a good enough reason not to ever go shopping in Paris.

Dylan Jones is the Evening Standard’s editor-in-chief