Like 27 million other TV viewers, I watched the opening ceremony of the Olympics with pride, amusement and wonder. Mind you, having said that, I think the Queen could have smiled a bit more, and the job of sorting out the NHS has been made significantly harder after Danny Boyle’s very long homage to this national treasure. However, the Olympics are now in full swing and look set to be a great success.
At the risk of being a party pooper I would like to turn to the subject of what happens to those of us in business at the end of this national extravaganza. What do we get out of it?
Seven years ago, when London won the bid we were told that winning the Olympics would be a great opportunity for business. While the Olympics do offer an opportunity for business, it is only a certain kind of business that has benefitted – ‘Big Business’, the likes of Barclaycard, McDonalds and Coca Cola.
When London won the bid I was lucky enough to get an audience with one of the Olympic organising big-wigs. This came about because I happened to meet Lord Coe at an event and he helpfully gave me the name of the right person to see. From the moment I met the organisers it was apparent that there were so many restrictions on what could and could not be done, not just around the Olympic complex, but around the Olympic brand. Any involvement for small businesses was almost impossible.
The Government could so easily have used the Olympics as an opportunity to showcase small British businesses. The Olympic opening ceremony celebrated Britain’s extraordinary history and achievements, but once those visitors left the stadium what evidence in the rest of the complex was there of British entrepreneurship or achievement?
What are the lessons that we can learn from the failure of the Government to support small business with this major national event? If ever we get an opportunity to host another major global event, which I am sure we will, we must run a ‘Best of British’ showcase in parallel. An exhibition on the scale of the Olympics itself where national and international visitors can sample under one roof the fruits of Britain’s unique entrepreneurial culture. That would be of tangible benefit to British business and fly the flag for British business.
For as far as I am concerned for small business owners the London Olympics will prove to be like having an elderly relative to stay. You feed them well, look after them, entertain them and ensure their comfort, but once they have gone you are left wondering what you have got out of the experience
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