What the Olympics is doing for us

London 2012London Olympics expert Matt Rogan has been talking to AOL Money about the benefits the Games could bring. Throughout our conversation he's been emphasising the need to see the big picture, throwing out some innovative ideas and stressing that this is not the first Games London has staged in a time of austerity. In the latest part of our conversation, we take a look at some concrete benefits already achieved, and discuss the future.
Rogan, an experienced commercial director who, alongside his father Martin is the author of a compelling in-depth study of Britain's Olympic history (see link below) points out that "£5bn has gone straight into the British construction sector as a result of the Games", something he says with a grin could well be seen as "asset-based quantitative easing." And, he says, "actually running the Games is a break-even activity".

The latest DCMS quarterly report stacks up the figures to back the case that the Games is having an impact. It says up 11,000 people are working for contractors on the Olympic site, and that 40,341 have "experienced work" since 2008. Some 1,580 people have found work through the Olympic Delivery Authority's jobs brokerage scheme since 2008, and 25% of workers on the park are host borough residents.

Small business

The CompeteFor scheme, set up to help businesses compete for contract opportunities, has awarded 73% of its contracts to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). More than 98% of the ODA's suppliers are UK-based. While the Games are on, the workforce employed by the Organising Committee will total 200,000.

With statistics, you always have to be careful, especially when numbers are listed without context. There are questions to be asked about the type of jobs, how permanent they are and whether the rates paid are fair. But the fact is that this is an enormous project that in austere times should maybe be seen not as a drain on the economy but as one of the few areas of growth.

Rogan, ever keen on the bigger picture, points out further benefits. "Westfield wouldn't have gone there without the transport spend on the Games" he says. "That's creating 18,000 permanent jobs, and you have to measure that against the impact on local small business."

He talks about "Property companies building supermalls are also legally bound to invest in the target community they develop in, thanks to a nifty little bit of legislation known as Section 106" – that's the very same s106 that's proved such a bone of contention over the Spurs and West Ham stadium projects.

Running clubs

And Rogan has plenty of examples of what he calls 'the less direct, smaller stuff" that is being being driven by the games. One of his favourite examples is parkrun, a national network of volunteer-run running clubs which organises weekend 5km races across the country. "My local parkrun generates £10k a year for local authorities from parking and a similar amount for the lady who runs the park cafe," he says. And models such as this are also key to a central part of the legacy delivery – boosting participation in sport without stressing the public purse.

You can take just one stat from a whole raft to realise what could be achieved here. If the Games drive up the level of adult participation in sport by just 10%, public health bodies estimate it could save the NHS £500m a year – driving a prevention over cure agenda that it is vital the health sector embraces.

Then there's the massively increased profile of the Paralympic Games, which it is hoped will drive both opportunity and create the funding for better care and provision. And the Get Set London programme which has drawn over 20,000 schools to sign up to a programme promoting the benefits of activity.

London Olympics

Rogan is unashamedly an evangelist for the London Olympics. His view is not drawn from blind faith, but from a study of the context and history of previous Games combined with a solid grasp of what the upcoming Games are already contributing to the country.

Our conversations are driven by the creative spark caused by my journalistic natural cynicism and his drive to push the virtues of hard evidence and creative thinking to the fore. He says: "Nobody is saying that public shouldn't have an open book view of the Games, and that it's competing with other priorities. But," he insists, "we're asking the wrong questions here.

"In a world where we're necessarily being drawn into budgetary fire fighting, this is one long term project we're committed to which has the potential to return long term economic growth and minimise public purse health commitments," he says. And, with a comment that takes us back to our starting point, he says, "Sorry Hammers season ticket holders, it's about a hell of a lot more than your sight lines!"

Link (opens in new window)

Britain and the Olympic Games: Past, Present, Legacy by Matt and Martin Rogan
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