THE extraordinary thing about the great Olympic stadium legacy debate is not that everyone has an opinion, although they do. No, it is that we are having this debate at all eighteen months before the start of the London games.
Normally in a host city at this stage, the great debate is: will it be finished in time, or make us a global laughing stock? It is because, unlike previous host cities, London has made legacy its top priority in delivering the 2012 Games, and everything is going so terrifyingly smoothly that public attention is focused on what is happening after the games rather than before.
Indeed, the success of building the Olympic Park is a great national triumph (of the sort the media never tire of being silent about). It is the first time in Olympic history that the construction of the venues will be finished a year early – ahead of schedule, and under budget. A regular trickle of venues are being completed, and the stadium has had its lighting-up ceremony. The Mayor jokes that he is going to ensure British victory at the London Games by catching everyone else napping by calling them a year early.
We still seem to have a national belief in Britain that we can’t do big construction projects; but there’s an Olympic size park that says we can. Our project management and construction firms are world leaders, and 2012 is our chance to showcase them to potential customers around the world.
The London Games are a once-in-a-generation marketing opportunity to promote London businesses. For three weeks, the world’s attention will be focused on us, and examining what we are like as a city. Business and political leaders will descend on us in unprecedented numbers to look at what is going on. Unlike Beijing or Barcelona, this is not a coming out ceremony, trying to put ourselves on the world map. We’re already there.
Obviously as a city we need to wear our Sunday best. But there is far more to it than that. Done right – and we are working hard with London businesses, the national government and UKTI to ensure it is – the London Games can be harnessed to showcase the best of British business to the world, promoting exports and inward investment.
Chinese manufacturers are raising their demand for design services, and we are the design capital of the world; the Games can help broker that marriage. This is our chance to prove we are indeed the digital capital of Europe, and to show off our world leading film expertise to Hollywood movie moguls. We can confirm that despite the financial crisis and banker-bashing, Europe’s financial centre is still very much open. The London Games aren’t just serious sport. They are also serious business.
Anthony Browne is an adviser to the Mayor of London