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Last Updated: Monday, 4 July, 2005, 07:29 GMT 08:29 UK
Business braced for Olympics decision
By Bill Wilson
BBC News business reporter

A large pro-London 2012 banner outside Downing Street
The bid has the support of the prime minister and government
As the long-awaited day to announce the winner of the 2012 Olympics approaches, support for the games has been increasing among the UK's business community.

Winning the games could open opportunities for companies up and down the UK in sectors as diverse as construction, tourism, merchandise, catering, design and IT, while there are promises of extensive workforce training.

Economic organisations in the South West, North East, and Yorkshire have all spoken of the benefits they expect to enjoy if London wins the all-important International Olympic Committee vote.

Culture secretary Tessa Jowell and other members of the Cabinet continue to laud the economic benefits of hosting the games, while bid chairman Lord Coe has spoken repeatedly about leaving an infrastructure "legacy" for future generations.

The London games would generate 100m profit, according to calculations made last year when the bid was revealed.

'Great optimism'

However, many businesses at the Marshgate Lane trading estate in Stratford, East London, say they are not being given adequate financial compensation to relocate their businesses to make way for the Olympic stadium and park site.

And a rise in house prices because of property speculators may not be in the best interest of people who live locally.

The games promise to deliver real benefits to East London and to Newham in particular
Sir Robin Wales, Mayor of Newham

But at the London Chamber of Commerce, Dan Bridgett prefers to point to the positives.

"There is a real feeling among the city's business community that we can benefit from winning the games. The feeling at the moment is one of great optimism."

Tourism and the construction industry would benefit the most, and the games would also offer a great opportunity to resolve some of London's long-standing transport problems, says Mr Bridgett.

House prices

At a local level, the games would benefit the economy of the East London borough of Newham, says mayor Sir Robin Wales.

"The games promise to deliver real benefits to East London and to Newham in particular - thousands of jobs and training opportunities, new homes, the biggest park in London, world class sports facilities and much more."

And the possibility of hosting the games has provided an impetus to the local property market, says Dan Shultz of estate agents David Daniels Property Services, in Leytonstone Road, Stratford.

Culture secretary Tessa Jowell and transport secretary Alistair Darling
Transport could receive a boost if the games come to London

"Over the last 40 years Newham has been a quite run-down and depressed area," he observes.

"But the speculation alone about whether London will win the Olympics has seen house prices going up."

In the past two years the price of a one-bedroom flat has gone up from 120,000 to 140,000; "a massive increase for the area", according to Mr Shultz.

Many people are holding on to their properties locally, even if they have moved to other parts of London, he says.

Many are letting out their East London homes in the hope their value will rise if the games are secured.

"A lot of people have also been moving in who might not previously have thought about living in this area," he adds.

Compensation row

Meanwhile, a number of local firms are concentrating on the issues surrounding moving out - whether forced or voluntarily.

If London wins the bid, more than 300 businesses will have to move to make way for the games park and stadium.

Speculators have been buying up land immediately outside the Olympics 'zone' and the price of land has rocketed up
Michael Finlay, Stratford businessman

Chris Taylor of Print Emporium Limited, one of the businesses in the Marshgate Centre, supports the bid "because we think it is the best interests of our local area but also for the rest of London and for the whole country for us to win".

However, there is a sizeable group of businesses opposed to the games, not because they do not want the Olympics in London, but because they say they are not being suitably compensated for having to move their premises.

'Fair treatment'

Michael Finlay is managing director of PA Finlay construction company, and leader of the Marshgate Lane Business Group representing about 150 firms on the estate.

"We want to be treated fairly, but do not think that is happening," he says.

"Speculators have been buying up land immediately outside the Olympics 'zone' and the price of land has rocketed.

"If they make us move there will be a shortage of industrial and commercial land nearby and we will have to pay over the odds for the remaining available land."

Artist's impression of the proposed London Olympic stadium
The Olympic stadium would displace hundreds of businesses

Mr Finlay, who employs 140 people, says he has been offered 2.6m for his land, but that it would cost him 4.7m to buy new land and rebuild his factory.

However, the London Development Agency (LDA) says it is committed to giving "market value" for the businesses' land.

"If we do win the games, we - as the mayor's agency for business and jobs in London - are not in the business of putting people out of jobs," says an LDA spokesman.

If no agreement can be reached, the LDA will seek compulsory purchase orders to buy the land.

Should the firms not be happy with the money offered, they can go to arbitration, but that could mean the issue dragging on for a number of years.

Meanwhile, as the crunch day approaches, Mr Bridgett of the chamber of commerce says: "There is a real feeling among the business community that we can win these games."

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