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The Olympic Legacy: More than Feel Good for UK Business?

After all the hype, will UK business see long-term benefits from hosting the Olympics.

As the UK’s glorious summer of sport fades into autumn and the Olympic bandwagon rolls off into the sunset, the reality of life after the Games has arrived. As work gets underway to redevelop many Olympic venues for other uses, the process of turning legacy promises into long-term benefits and returns on investment is about to start.

Right from the earliest bid stages, legacy and building for the long-term were central themes of London’s Games. The Olympics would provide the UK with a huge economic and sporting boost, whilst delivering many cultural, environmental, social and sustainable benefits. In July, David Cameron predicted that the Games would boost the UK economy by £13bn over the next four years, whilst a Lloyds Bank report suggested the financial benefits could be as much as £16.5bn up to 2017.

After the Games, Jacques Rogge, President of the International Olympics Committee commented that London had “raised the bar on how to deliver a lasting legacy” and “has created a legacy blueprint for future Games hosts”.
Whilst it’s relatively easy to make predictions, it’s notoriously difficult to quantify them. This may prove to the case for the UK, given the Games’ widely varying impact on the economies of previous host nations and cities.

Whilst the Olympics may have raised the international profiles of cities such as Sydney, Athens and Barcelona, quantifying the long-term economic benefits has been far more difficult.
One report into the Athens Games concluded that “whilst the immediate impact was quite positive, the long-term economic legacy effect with respect to both GDP and unemployment appeared to be quite modest.” Like many others, Sydney’s Games enjoyed huge media success and popular support, yet the post event report said it was “unlikely” to produce a double dividend of intangible benefits and an economic boost of the sort previously thought.
It may be too early to quantify the long-term benefit financially, but socially and environmentally, the benefits are already visible. Massive investment in the tube and train network has significantly improved transport in and around London – particularly to the east of the capital and this will have long-term benefits. Whilst the investment was not directly due to London hosting the Games, it has certainly been a significant contributory factor.

Additionally, The Olympic Park has been one of Europe’s largest urban regeneration projects; it has dramatically changed one of the capital’s most deprived and derelict areas. This will have a direct and long-term impact on the local communities, which will continue as the Olympic Park and surrounding areas are transformed into villages, homes, office, leisure and recreational spaces for everyday use.

Commenting on its impact, Dennis Hone, chief executive of the London Legacy Development Corporation recently said: “This is a generational project – it may be 20 years before we see the full benefit of the work being done today”.

UK business may also see long-term benefits from the creation of iCITY; a joint venture between real estate investors, Delancey and IT firm, Infinity SDC, which will transform the Games’ Media Centre into an innovation city and high tech hub for the area. With plans to leverage links with the new technology and media hotspots in east London, Shoreditch and around Old Street, iCITY’s backers plan to invest £350million and create more than 6500 jobs on site and in the local area.

Financial and economic benefits are vitally important given the UK’s investment in the Olympics, but maybe one their greatest legacies is intangible “feel good” factor. Whether this translates into a more confident nation remains to be seen, but as a result of the Games, many people now view the UK in a different, more positive light.

A survey by Ipsos Mori showed that 58% thought that the Olympics would have a positive impact on the UK economy as a whole. The same survey also revealed that the Games had made people more positive about the BBC, Royal Family and Londoners. As Gideon Skinner, head of political research at Mori remarked “The Games have even made Londoners feel good about themselves and their capital”.

As this stage, it’s too early to determine whether the Games’ much hyped benefits will materialise. For the moment, the confidence and “feel good” factor are still evident, but there’s no guarantee that they will survive into 2013 and beyond. However, if this new found confidence can be nurtured and used to benefit and inspire UK businesses, it could be the Games’ most effective legacy of all.
SteveMoore Steve Moore is Marketing Manager at Business Environment