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BUSINESS FIRST June\July 2012 www.businessfirstmagazine.co.uk


COUNTDOWN FINAL THE


Five years and billions of pounds later, the five ring Olympic circus is on our doorstep. Rarely has an event been met with such rejoicing at the start and so much scepticism as it arrived. The true accounting will not be made for years to come, as Katy Lassetter reports.


The Diamond Jubilee showed Britain at its best and that the British brand is in good shape. Businesses used bank holiday promotions and sales of merchandise to their advantage and a boost in turnover of as much as £509m was expected for retailers over the lengthy June weekend. Will London 2012 result in similar jubilation for business or is it actually going to have a negative impact, ultimately failing to deliver a return on our collective investment?


What we do know is that London’s businesses are spectacularly unprepared for the seismic shock of enduring what is effectively an occupying force taking over our roads, our infrastructure and in some cases our commerce. Research by the MWB Business Exchange found that one third of businesses in the areas of London to be most affected by the


Games have made no contingency plans at all for the Olympics, even if they know they’ll be hit by issues such as getting staff to work, which could become a slow-motion nightmare on the routes across town to Stratford and the Olympic Park. Only 11% of firms had made any plans to let staff work from home, while only 30% had introduced flexitime plans.


The core problem is that nobody quite knows what will actually happen to the rest of London’s economy during the Games. Will spectators decide they’ve


is unlikely to be filled. There will be much anger, but then hotels had also jacked up the price of their non- Olympic inventory considerably, so in terms of pricing, they have clearly been wrong-footed. The entertainment business has certainly made up its mind – it’s going to be a disaster. After noticing that advance bookings of West End shows are already 10% down on their usual level, at a time when musical theatre has never been so commercially popular, Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber told the BBC, ‘Nobody's going to go to the theatre at all.’ The owner of seven


‘NOBODY'S GOING TO GO TO THE THEATRE AT ALL’


already spent enough on their tickets and basically ignore everything else London has to offer? Will those who would normally visit London in the summertime be put off by reports of travel mayhem? Evidence from the hotel business says yes, after LOCOG, the London Organising Committee, which had booked 40,000 rooms for officials and VIPs, returned 8,000 of them, leaving a nasty hole in reservations that


London theatres even plans to shelve the performance of three major musicals during the Olympics (but he has not as yet revealed which shows these will be).


Even if visitors wanted to go to the theatre, would they actually be able to get there? Waiting times on major tube lines are expected to rise to 30 minutes with murmurs of tube strikes adding to


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