Business has won already

David Hellier
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That much of the debate over the Olympics has focused on what happens to its venues after 2012 speaks volumes for the efficiency with which the games have so far been organised. Instead of the endless speculation of whether venue X or Y will be ready on time that is normal territory in the months leading up to such events, arguments have raged on which London football club will take over the running of the Olympic Stadium once the games are over.

By most standards, the organisers of the Games have played a blinder. But they are the first to admit that they could not have achieved so much, so cleanly, without a massive amount of assistance from the business community.

The Games themselves are effectively being organised by two bodies. One is the publicly funded Olympic Delivery Authority. It has responsibility for the building of the venues and the infrastructure. The second body, LOCOG, is mainly privately funded and it has been tasked with organising the events themselves, the publicity and marketing and the ticketing for them. So far the LOCOG organisers—many of their staff are secondees from the private sector—have around £700m in goods and services from business.

This input has been achieved against a poor economic backdrop, with financial companies in particular knocked sideways by the sub-prime collapse. Chris Townsend, commercial director for the London Olympics’ organising committee says: “These are real record numbers and here you have leading brands paying for the delivery of the Games through cash and through lending their expertise.”

Townsend says one reason for London’s success has been that the organisers have adopted what he terms as a “true business partnership model”. The organisers offered up three categories of sponsorship and offered sponsors exclusivity in their respective business sectors. Hence Lloyds Banking Group, for example, is the only bank to be involved, BMW the only car company and Deloitte the only professional services group.

Importantly, say those involved, London extended sponsorship categories to throw them open to non-retail sectors. Tim Jones, the London managing partner of Freshfields, says: “The key thing about these Games is that they have been opened up to business organisations who have often provided value in kind to the organisers. From a business perspective, it’s a good differentiator being able to show how we have been successfully involved in a massive project of this kind.”

Freshfields has been involved in the Games since 2003, when it played a part in submitting the opening bid for London. Jones says that one of the key differences between the London bid and those that lost was that London emphasised the private sector participation. “There hasn’t been a bureaucratic approach to this event. What we all said was let’s draw on the vitality of the business community and we have.”

Heather Hancock, lead Deloitte 2012 partner, says that the tendering process was extremely competitive. “It soon became clear to us that you would not want one of your competitors associated with the Games. But it also really mattered that we were truly involved in delivering the Games.”

For Lloyds Banking Group, which was the first to sign up as a sponsor, the value of being involved with the Games became all the greater whenthe bank hit problems following its disastrous merger with HBoS. Says Sally Hancock, the director of the London 2012 Partnership at the bank: “Our involvement became more important and not less after the banking crisis because we knew that if we did things well and appropriately that would change the way people felt about the bank.”

Assuming the venues continue to reach completion without any last minute hitches the biggest task from now on in is selling as many tickets as possible.

There are 8.8 million tickets on sale, of which one per cent are reserved for corporate guests. The message from the organisers to business is a simple one. You’ve helped us create this spectacle, now come and watch them in style.