Ignore the incessant rain. Forget Andy Murray’s heart-wrenching runner-up speech at Wimbledon. Brits, at last, have reason for cheer. The greatest sporting event on the planet touches down in the capital next week.
London 2012 couldn’t have come at a better time. The UK is in the first double-dip recession since the economic turmoil of 1975. A million young people are currently out of work. And business confidence has plummeted to its lowest level this year, according to accounting firm BDO’s business trends report.
The Olympics will provide the British economy with a much-needed shot in the arm. Ten million people are about to start flocking to East London (including 1.2 million visitors from overseas). The three-hour opening ceremony alone, held on 27 July and reportedly featuring maypoles, water wheels and Beatles legend Sir Paul McCartney, will be viewed by a global TV audience of more than a billion.
Prime Minister David Cameron reckons the Games will generate more than £13bn for the economy. By 2017, it will have helped create the equivalent of 62,200 jobs. Even the ever-cautious Bank of England expects the growth rate in the third quarter of 2012 to be around 0.2 per cent higher than it would have been without the Olympics and Paralympics.
For the country’s business owners, London 2012 is a potential gold mine. Take Matthew Parker. He set up Londonrentmyhouse.com to match up Olympic visitors, media and athletes with London homeowners. He says the response has been crazy since the turn of 2012 in terms of host and visitor registrations, adverts, interaction and bookings.
Ray Duffy, Chris O’Nyan and Dean Walton have also jumped on the Olympics bandwagon. The founders of Mask-arade have created a special range of athlete masks for the big event, so even if you can’t run like Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt, you can look like him.
Then there are the hot-dog sellers (McDonald’s has the monopoly on burgers), the tour guides and the “pop-up” club and bar owners, offering Olympic visitors the chance to party on late into the night. And let’s not forget all the retailers who will be taking advantage of the Sunday trading law hiatus.
That’s not to say it’s going to be plain sailing for the country’s business owners during the Games. There will be staff absences to deal with; there will be restrictions to parking and overnight deliveries. Many entrepreneurs have already had to face the wrath of Locog in its mission to stop companies using the word “Olympics” in their branding. The University of Derby was forced to take down a banner which read, “supporting the London Olympics”, while bakers at the British Sugarcraft Guild were told that using the logo on cakes was unacceptable.
But entrepreneurs are resilient and they’ll leap over the hurdles (excuse the pun). The capital’s police officers have been told to cheer up and smile for the Games – Britain’s businesses should be smiling, too.