On the Trail of Olympic Gold; LONDON'S BID TO HOST THE 2012 GAMES OFFERS THE PROSPECT OF A BONANZA FOR BIG BUSINESS AND THE SMALL ENTREPRENEUR ALIKE

The Evening Standard (London, England), June 3, 2004 | Go to article overview

On the Trail of Olympic Gold; LONDON'S BID TO HOST THE 2012 GAMES OFFERS THE PROSPECT OF A BONANZA FOR BIG BUSINESS AND THE SMALL ENTREPRENEUR ALIKE


Byline: SARAH MARKS;BILL CONDIE

MR SIDDIQUI has been running the newsagents and sub-post office on Stratford High Street for four years. It looks out over a gritty, busy road bordering a creepy sub-commercial world of second-hand car-part dealers and garages encircling the old railway lands in the Lower Lea Valley.

But if London wins the right to stage the Olympic Games in 2012, Mr Siddiqui's newsagents, a few hundred yards from the site of the proposed main stadium could be transformed into a gold mine as millions of visitors flood through the area. "It would be amazing, not just for my business but for the whole of Newham and East London," he says. "This area has had a bad name but the Olympics would change that completely."

If it's a tantalising prospect for the small entrepreneur in this rundown corner of East London, it's an enormous opportunity for some of the capital's biggest businesses. Almost four years after the Sydney Games, the experts and politicians still can't agree on their precise value to the country. But, according to Australia's Bureau of Statistics, it was a net A$1.5 billion ([pounds sterling]577 million).

Understandably, chief executives are wary of speculating within shareholder hearing about the extra millions that could be made, but behind the scenes memos are circulating, calculators are whizzing and plans are being drawn up.

Some 61% of businessmen polled by the London Chamber of Commerce thought their companies would benefit from the Games.

London 2012, the company set up to orchestrate the bid, has started trying to calculate the overall economic impact of hosting the Olympics, but quantifying the financial benefits is an imprecise science. Chief executive Keith Mills says: "The Olympics is a huge and diverse enterprise and the benefits to the economy begin six or seven years before you actually stage the games."

Mills says conferences and conventions will be attracted four to five years ahead of the Games while sporting bodies will want to hold events in the UK in the run-up. The Olympic bonanza would probably span a decade or more.

The first beneficiary would be property developer Chelsfield which, with development partner Stanhope, owns the 35-hectare site in Stratford where the Olympic Village would be constructed. They already intend to build a 13-million-square-foot development, Stratford City, comprising 4500 new homes, schools, commercial buildings and leisure and retail areas.

Preliminary planning permission is expected next month and construction will start in 2006.

If the Olympic bid is successful, Chelsfield's plans will be radically altered to include the main stadium, velodromes, hockey rings, tennis facilities, an aquatic centre and other sporting arenas.

Managing director Nigel Hugill says: "It is a colossally ambitious scheme, but the Olympics will make a huge difference. The benefits for us I think will be fourfold. First, there will be a real political will behind the master planning.

Two, the Government will get behind the infrastructure issues of local roads and bus routes.

"Then, it clearly gives us a further impetus and recognition - an international recognition. Fourth, we are pretty ambitious in hotel building."

Trains and coaches group National Express would also be a winner. An extra [pounds sterling]415 million will be ploughed into rail projects if the Olympics comes to London. National Express's coach division has been told to draw up plans for ferrying the athletes and Games officials to and from the airports, for park and ride schemes, and for bussing in visitors from the regions.

Airports operator BAA is also involved in planning for the bid. "Our airports will welcome the vast majority of competitors and spectators," says a spokesman. The 550,000 expected visitors include 16,000 athletes, 5000 Olympic officials, 10,000 sponsors and a 20,000-strong media pack. …

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