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Going for gold in 2012

You know, it’s just one small step from legacy to lame duck.

Is it my imagination or, economic downturn or not, are people starting to feel a bit more positive about things? Yes, the high street retailers are still haemorrhaging sales, yes there are stories of whole tribes of brickies turning up on building sites looking for work and yes, energy prices have gone up yet again.

But it seems as though even people born without the sporting gene are feeling happier and more positive since the Olympics started. Or, more accurately, since we started winning some lovely shiny yellow medals.

Winning always makes the country feel happier. It happened after Athens, after Sydney and Sir Steve Redgrave’s monumentous fifth rowing gold, after we won the Rugby World Cup, after we won the Ashes and I’m sure it happened last time our football team won anything worth winning.

The fact that we have 47 medals, 19 of them gold, won’t make getting a mortgage any easier and it won’t make houses sell more quickly and it won’t put any more value on beleaguered FTSE share prices. But it will cut through all the doom and gloom and consumer confidence is all about feeling positive, regardless of how much you intend to actually spend.

The important thing now is to take all this positive thought about the Olympics and turn it into positive action for our own show. Yes, staging the 2012 Olympics is going to cost a bomb. Which is why we have to make it work, not just for the 16 days the event is on, but afterwards.

Sydney’s Games, spectacular though they were, had no legacy plan so stadiums

and accommodation lies empty. Ditto Athens, now littered with white elephant buildings overshadowing deprived areas while the taxpayer picks up the tab. Atlanta, though, is a different story. Say what you like about the Yanks, they know how to make an event pay for itself.

What worries me is that our Olympic structures once the 2012 event is over will end up like the Millenium Dome – a stunning example of the best that the British construction industry can achieve, completely naffed up by the failure of the government to come up with any plan for it once it closed.

London Mayor Boris Johnson has called on businesses and investors to come up with radical ideas to drive the regeneration of east London after the 2012 Games. It strikes me that this is just a tiny bit late. London won the bid to stage the Games on July 6 2005 and the bid was won on the basis of the regeneration it would bring to the area. Surely they had some ideas at that point.

People elsewhere in the country might think that there’s a lot of fuss over something that’s happening in London for a fortnight but there is great business to be had for merchants in the run-up to the event. Why else would all the major names and plenty of the local independents be opening up branches in the area and gearing themselves up for it?

My point about the legacy plan is that if we get it right, there will be fantastic business opportunities for those merchants afterwards too.

About Fiona Russell-Horne

Fiona Russell-Horne
Group Managing Editor across the BMJ portfolio.

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