A WEEK since the Olympics closed, some commentators are already talking post-Games blues. But this is our honeymoon period, our chance to capitalise on a successful fortnight of the UK at its best.
We’ve witnessed an amazing journey. An east London wasteland has been transformed – 1.5m cubic metres of contaminated soil was painstakingly cleaned, creating a magnificent Olympic Park, built ahead of time and on budget.
Danny Boyle launched London 2012 in style, showcasing the best of British innovation and creative talent. When the Games kicked off, Team GB did us proud, and showed what can be done with hard work, determination and self-belief. And our Games Makers were the special ingredient that made our Olympics welcoming and memorable.
London 2012 was a slick operation. Transport and security worked with quiet efficiency. We demonstrated our ability to deliver a complex project successfully, and we mustn’t forget that many great British companies contributed to that.
But was it worth it? Businesses certainly think so. In a post-Olympic survey, 88 per cent of Confederation of British Industry (CBI) members in London and the south east say the Olympics were good for the UK. Two thirds think the Olympics will boost the economy. And most of these firms, many close to Olympic zones, did not experience any significant problems with travel (76 per cent) or deliveries (67 per cent).
So how can we capitalise and deliver the business and economic legacy? It won’t be immediate, although we do expect a small boost to GDP from the Olympics in the third quarter. Nor will it be handed to us. We must seize the opportunity to boost investment, exports and tourism.
London already has much to offer potential investors. It’s a creative, high-tech, financial and professional services hub. We must showcase the capital for the world-class business destination it is. We have a strong skills base, but we must also tackle unemployment.
Investment in our transport infrastructure is paying off, especially on the Tube. We must keep up the momentum, including overhauling our roads network, a perennial business gripe, and deliver a world-class integrated transport system.
Our firms need support to export products and services globally. Some that helped deliver London 2012, including Mace, Odgers Berndtson, Deloitte and JCB, have already won contracts for Sochi 2014 and Rio 2016. Lord Green, the mayor and Lord Coe, as Olympic Legacy ambassador, must build links with high-growth markets and shout about our strengths. To support this, we must urgently decide how we’re going to expand our aviation capacity.
Television images of the Olympics showed the world beautiful backdrops to the sporting action. Eton Dorney, Weymouth, The Mall – we must use this tourism halo effect to promote London and the UK to overseas visitors.
Now is the time to use the Olympics springboard to deliver a dynamic economic legacy.
Sara Parker is London director of the Confederation of British Industry.