01/08/2011

By David Bowler, and Julia Payne at Incisive Edge

As well as shining a spotlight on London business, the 2012 Olympics also has £700m of procurement still available.

As London business emerges from the worst economic meltdown since the 1930s, there's a significant event on the horizon that could yet prove pivotal in getting the capital trading again.

The London Olympics and Paralympic Games 2012 are already a success. With minimal press reporting, the Olympic Park will be finished a year early. That's a first in Olympic history – and one that makes the event a great international advert for British construction and project management.

Legacy on the line

This is important because, as we'll point out, there's much more to the London Olympics than throwing a javelin and haring around a track. What's on the line at London 2012 is something that the organisers have supported right from the starting gun: legacy.

For London business, that means a prime-time marketing spotlight on the world stage. For three weeks next summer, London will be under an international microscope like never before. Politicians and business leaders will swarm around the capital. This is the time to polish our shoes, showcase British business, promote export and woo inward investment.

Britain might not manufacture cars, steel or locomotives the way it once did, but there's a new breed of British business at large in London. It wears Hugo Boss jackets rather than blue overalls, and it leads the world in areas like design, film and even finance. Design in particular is big in China. This alone is a deal that can be sealed in London.

The Games can also put our digital skills on centre stage, while Hollywood's glitterati might be interested in our movie-making prowess, now the envy of Europe. And, in spite of the financial crash and furore surrounding our bankers, London remains the financial heart of Europe.

Merchandise

But what immediate harvest can London businesses hope to reap from the seeds sown by the London Organising Committee for the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) and the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA)?

Well, suppliers are still required. One firm that's already off the starting blocks is gift company Touch of Ginger. Log onto the Games website and you can buy the company's souvenir merchandise, which includes items like bottle openers and stainless steel playing cards, or visit the Olympics shop in John Lewis stores or at St Pancras station.

The Touch of Ginger contract is by no means unique for small businesses. Another 500-plus have also won contracts with the London Olympics. They include everything from the Plain English Campaign to small catering firms, steel bands, tree-fellers and even a public-art think tank.

Most of the direct contracts, organised through the ODA, the body delivering the venues and infrastructure, have already been awarded. But business opportunities are still available down the supply chain and through LOCOG. Small firms can register their details and expertise on LOCOG's CompeteFor website, the central focus of 2012 tenders.

£700m of procurement

"There remains more than £700m of procurement to complete over the next two years, so there are plenty of opportunities – particularly in the UK and particularly for small businesses," says LOCOG Commercial Director Chris Townsend.

Some of the products and services still required cover the spectrum from construction and engineering to creative and merchandising. Says Townsend, "In terms of live opportunities for SMEs, we are kicking off the project for the design of the Olympic and Paralympic torches, so we are looking for expertise in this area."

While it's refreshing that London 2012 is keen to entertain bids from small businesses, just how small is small?

Home businesses out there, take heart. Touch of Ginger has just ten staff. But Director Alison Bateman says tendering was tough: "The early stages were easy, but we did spend a couple of months on and off preparing the tender. It was a huge team effort. It's been fantastic for the business and a huge opportunity. I'm hoping the whole thing could potentially double our turnover."

She adds, "Don't be disheartened just because you might think you are not as big or as experienced as the others. Our involvement with LOCOG has proved it listens to everyone's case and makes a judgement on that and not whether you are a big name with lots of staff and lots of turnover."

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