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Last Updated: Monday, 14 February, 2005, 00:49 GMT
Will UK business be an Olympic winner?
By Bill Wilson
BBC News business reporter

London 2012 flag
Many business organisations are flying the flag for London
The high jump bar is looming for London's Olympic bid with the visit of the IOC's evaluation committee to the capital.

It is making inspection visits to London and other candidate cities to examine all aspects of their bids.

In the past month the chairman of the London bid, Lord Coe, and Tessa Jowell, Culture Media and Sport Secretary, have been rallying the city to the cause.

Reasons put forward for London, and indeed the whole UK, to support the bid have been the lift the games would give to sport, transport, and business, as well as leaving an infrastructure 'legacy' for future generations.

The list of those lining up to back the economic and business case is impressive, from Prime Minister Tony Blair, through agencies and business groups, to company names like department store chain John Lewis.

'Significant opportunities'

"The economic benefits are clear," says Mr Blair in a letter to the London team.

"A games hosted in London would create significant opportunities for companies up and down the UK in sectors as diverse as construction, tourism, merchandise, catering, design and IT."

He claims that the benefits of hosting the Olympic games and Paralympics would be felt for many years after the games had finished.

"Training the workforce to meet those opportunities will reap benefits in years to come, particularly as UK companies develop their own Olympic experience that can be exported across the globe after 2012."

Our conviction is that staging the 2012 Olympics in London presents a world-class opportunity, measured in billions of pounds, for business and for Britain
Alex Christou, Accenture

However, a business survey carried out by the London Chamber of Commerce (LCC) among 357 firms showed support for the bid had dropped from 81% two years ago, to 68% last month.

Although more than two-thirds of London firms still support the games there is concern about disruption caused by the event - just 47% of firms believing it will benefit business, down from 61%.

But Dan Bridgett of the LCC says: "There is still a very strong level of support among business. We believe the games can help business in three ways.

"There will be a huge boost to tourism, contractors across the UK will benefit, and probably most importantly, it is a once-in-a-generation chance to improve transport infrastructure in London."

'New growth'

When the London bid to host the games was unveiled last year, it was claimed the event would make 100m profit.

Organisers also said they believed they could more than recoup the 2.4bn cost of the event and become one of the few hosts recently to make a profit.

More than 100 companies are directly supporting London 2012 and among these are 'premium partners' EDF Energy, BT, Virgin Atlantic, British Airways and business consultancy Accenture.

Lord Coe and Tessa Jowell promoting the London bid
Lord Coe and Tessa Jowell see a jobs boost for London

"Our conviction is that staging the 2012 Olympics in London presents a world-class opportunity, measured in billions of pounds, for business and for Britain," says Accenture partner Alex Christou.

"But London 2012 is not just about running a successful, profitable games, it is about driving pervasive and sustainable outcomes throughout the UK economy.

"The 2012 Olympics can energise and drive new growth in the economies of all our nations and regions."

Firm unhappy

According to Trade and Industry Secretary Patricia Hewitt, the Manchester Commonwealth Games created over 6,000 full-time equivalent jobs and "we expect 7,000 jobs in the construction industry alone will be needed to deliver the games".

"And around 12,000 jobs could be created as a result of the legacy development of the Olympic Park area," she predicts.

And a survey by The Institute of Chartered Accountants among members working in the tourism and hospitality sectors shows the majority indicating that there would be long-term advantages for the tourism and hospitality industry in the UK.

However, a number of firms around the proposed Olympic village site in the east of London are unhappy and claim their companies will have to move or face additional costs.

Artist's impression of London Olympics village
The proposed Olympic village is close to Stratford, east London

Seamus Gannon is a director of Bedrock Crushing and Recycling, in Stratford, which recycles material from demolished buildings - such as cement, concrete and aggregates.

"I don't want to have to move my business. If I do have to move, I want the right amount of money to buy somewhere else nearby.

"There is a site available, but the only one I can afford with the money being offered for my land, is at Dagenham, which is 15 miles away.

"We are not against the Olympics, but a number of firms around here do not believe they are being offered enough for their land from the London Development Agency."

However the London Development Agency says it has "begun constructive early negotiations with the vast majority of businesses in the area to facilitate relocation".

And, to "ensure the process is a success we have built an extra two years into the relocation schedule starting in July 2005 before businesses would actually have to relocate".

"We have also gone over and above our obligations at this time by paying for the legal and surveying advice of the businesses concerned.

"We are confident that our offers represent the market value of the properties concerned, which is what, as a public body, we are statutorily required to offer, and the option is there for businesses to take the valuation to independent arbitration if they are not satisfied."

'Low-income work'

Michael Stirling, sports analyst at Field Fisher Waterhouse, points out: "London winning would be a boost to UK business, there will be substantial work within the construction industry, and also for lawyers and corporate financers.

"But the real concern is how will it benefit the ordinary people?

"Local businesses must also benefit, often the prime spots are sold to international corporates who enjoy substantial profits while the event lasts and use local people with low income work.

"Londoners will support the London bid but want substance in the plans that will genuinely benefit their lives and environment."

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