Cover feature - Survival of the fittest

Never mind gold medals; there have already been winners and losers in London's Olympic aspirations. Alex Blyth follows the countdown to 2012.

On 6 July 2005 the vast majority of the country celebrated the news that London had been chosen to host the 2012 Olympic Games. The horrors of the 7/7 terrorist attacks cast a dark shadow over the celebrations and now, just two years later, it seems hard to find anyone with a good thing to say about the Games.

The budget has tripled from £3bn to £9bn. According to a recent survey of 413 UK consumers by virtual business school Pentacle, 89% of us do not believe that the Olympic site will be built to even this new, inflated budget. The recently launched logo was almost universally derided. With every terrorist attack that the security services uncover, it seems less and less likely that London can guarantee security at an event of this scale.

Back in 2005, businesspeople were by and large excited at the prospect of the Games. Across the country and in a wide range of sectors they were anticipating both direct and indirect benefits. Two years on, while some are discovering that the Olympics will not be the pot of gold they were hoping for, the business community remains generally optimistic about the Games.

Winners and losers so far

There have already been many winners from this Olympic Games. These have included Edmund Nuttall and Galliford Try, which were appointed to clear the site, to demolish more than 100 buildings and to clean over 1m cubic metres of soil. Team Sir Robert McAlpine, the design and construction firm behind Arsenal's Emirates stadium and the Eden Project, has been hired to design and build the main 2012 Olympic stadium.

Accenture has been awarded the contract to provide the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games' (LOCOG) back-office systems. A survey by VisitBritain has found that winning the bid has already provided a boost to UK tourism. It revealed that Chinese and Russians in particular are now much more enthusiastic about visiting the UK. Branding consultancy Wolf Olins has, as is now widely known, been paid £400,000 to design the London 2012 logo.

While many have been quick to criticise that logo, Charlie Hoult, managing director of one of Wolf Olins's competitors, Loewy, is more positive. He says: 'The point of something like this is to be as inclusive as possible. A design that was too London-centric wouldn't have worked well in other parts of the UK and the world. This design can be used with images of the B of the Bang sculpture in Manchester and of the Harbour Bridge in Sydney so that it appeals to people right across the globe.'

Getting ready

Many other businesses are gearing up to handle the business that they hope to win from London 2012. Nick Robeson, CEO of Boyden Interim Management, says: 'Interim management businesses such as Boyden are particularly well-placed to help construction and development companies meet challenging deadlines and deliver high-quality, finished projects. We're already seeing increased interest in how our interim managers can help businesses deliver projects quickly and cost-effectively. This isn't limited just to the construction sector. It has also come from service-based businesses and the broader consultancy sector. This shows the extent to which British business is gearing up to capitalise on the Games.

Someone who should know a thing or two about preparing for an Olympics is former medal-winning swimmer, Adrian Moorhouse MBE. Now a director of human resource consultancy Lane 4, he says: 'The 2012 Olympics will undoubtedly leave a "hard" physical legacy of buildings and construction skills in the areas surrounding the Games. However, by harnessing the Olympic spirit there is the potential to leave a "soft" legacy that will boost skills and productivity within Britain's workforce.'

He continues: 'The Olympics are a time when people can rally together as a nation for a communal cause. There is a huge amount of "magic dust" created around the Games and this can be used as a catalyst for energising and mobilising individuals. Training plans and targets that tap into the excitement and values of the Games could lead to improved skills, higher levels of engagement and staff retention. Ultimately, by capturing the imagination of staff through harnessing the Olympic spirit, companies can make positive changes that result in bottom line profits.'

The sceptics

Not everyone is so excited about the Games. The first losers of the 2012 Games were the 100 or so businesses that had to relocate to make way for the Olympic site in East London. Although they received compensation, for many it will not have covered the full costs of their business interruption, dislocation from staff and clients, and relocation costs.

Many smaller companies are beginning to complain that all of the work is going to large multinationals. David Kyte, MD of construction consultancy Hill UK, says: 'Even though the time constraints of this project mean that the Olympic Delivery Authority will be paying well over the odds for services such as carpentry, joining and bricklaying, I still expect to see the vast majority of the work going to larger firms. Small companies will need to work hard to find opportunities further down the chain.'

The early findings of a survey by consultancy Egremont revealed that a startling number of businesses are ambivalent towards the opportunities that 2012 may present. Its Games Readiness Survey, which was sent to around 5,000 senior executives, found that 80% of them do not view London 2012 as an opportunity to grow their businesses.

Furthermore, 50% do not feel informed about the Games and 40% do not know where to get more information. In the light of this it is hardly surprising that 49% have not started planning for it yet and only 10% have allocated a budget.

Sue Grist, a director at Egremont, concludes: 'These figures suggest that the organisers still have a lot of work to do to enthuse UK business about the Games. It is though early days, and I expect that next year's Olympics in Beijing will make people sit up and start thinking seriously about London 2012.'


In July, the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games (LOCOG) appointed John Way, formerly at Centrica, as head of risk assurance. He is one of a growing number of finance and accounting professionals who are joining the various teams organising the 2012 Games.

Maurice Goldstone, managing consultant at recruitment firm Hudson, offers this advice to anyone who might be interested in these opportunities: 'Be prepared to face a lot of competition. We recently advertised for a financial controller at LOCOG and the response was much better than we'd expect for a comparable job elsewhere.

'If you do get an interview, don't go in saying you want to work there because you love sport. Although it would be a great atmosphere for anyone who does love sport, LOCOG and the Olympic Delivery Authority are looking for finance professionals who can help them deliver a massive construction project and sporting event. It's not a route to free tickets!'


In June, the Olympic Delivery Authority launched a Supplier Guide, which it hopes will provide potential suppliers with clear information on what it will be looking for from its main suppliers.

Businesses can also sign up at to receive notification of new tender opportunities.

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