The naked engineer: Not so game for the Games

NE foresees a trial of Hercules for businesses operating around the Olympic Games and throws doubt on the vaunted economic benefit they are expected to produce.

Naked Engineer
The naked engineer: stripping industry issues bare.

So the recent Diamond Jubilee celebrations and the impending London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games “provide opportunities for growth” do they? Ha! Forgive me if I don’t fall over myself in eagerness to claim them.

Clearly the Games will provide potential benefit for big West-End retailers and Stratford-based shops as tourists flock in to spend cash – providing Sterling hasn’t gone through the roof by then. No doubt sales of soft drinks and alcohol will also rise during the Games and pubs and restaurants, particularly those with plasma TV screens, will also do well.

But for thousands of firms across sectors based in and around London, the month-long period of the Olympic and Paralympic Games could well cost billions of pounds in lost business.

Neither will the Games do much to help the economy outside London, except maybe cause increased absenteeism from work during what is already a holiday month.

Even suppliers to the games are finding they have little power to leverage their contracts to win additional business or market their companies as attractive employment environments to Britain’s millions of unemployed. Tens of thousands of them have been forced to sign contractual agreements not to mention their association with the Games!

“Sadly the huge majority of the tat [tourists] buy as mementos of their visit will be fairly meaningless to the economy since over 90% of Olympics branded souvenirs were made in China.” – The naked engineer

For my money the old adage of ‘one man’s meat is another’s poison’ comes into play here. There are 112,000 people employed in manufacturing in the London region and a further 285,000 in the South East. For many of these workers – unable to work remotely as many are being told to do – the Olympics will mean roads completely shut off or restricted making it nigh on impossible to get to work, make deliveries, carry out installations or complete sales visits.

Of course the tourist trade will boom on the influx of visitors – but sadly the huge majority of the tat they buy as mementos of their visit to London will be fairly meaningless to the economy since over 90% of Olympics branded souvenirs were made in China.

Tourism is important of course and I am not intending in any way to knock it here. What I am setting out to do though is to attack the myth that suggests that all of a sudden the economy, and those that make it tick – like manufacturers – are going to enjoy what to pub drinkers is the equivalent of ‘happy hour’. As Greek politicians can so easily testify, no country can live by tourism alone.

Please don’t get me wrong, I am not against the Games themselves – just the pretence that they represent a massive benefit to the economy.