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London 2012 Olympics

Analysis: What effect will London Olympics 2012 have on Scotland's events sector


By The Drum Team, Editorial

November 28, 2011 | 5 min read

Next year sees the biggest show in the world come to the UK with the Olympics taking place in London. Dr Rob Harris, director of the Australian Centre of Event Management (ACEM) and co-author of Festival and Special Event Management, discusses the impact that he sees the Olympics having on Scotland's events industry next year.

It’s estimated that one million people will descend on London for the 2012 Olympic Games, about a quarter of them from overseas.

The London organising committee and the city are planning for around 1,500 Olympic and Paralympic athletes, 20,000 press and media and ticket sales of more than 9 million. Over 200 countries plan to send delegations to the Olympic Games and 170 countries will send delegations to the Paralympic Games.

As the UK capital prepares for the biggest UK event of the decade, some ask what will this -event hosted in England mean for Scotland and the Scottish events industry? There are commentators who have argued that the limited number of Olympic events being conducted in Scotland (eight early round men’s and women’s football matches), combined with only two small Olympic teams choosing to base their training camps here (Namibia and Zambia) , will see precious few Olympic opportunities or legacies resulting from the Games. But to simply dismiss the Games as a ‘London’ event is to overlook the potential it may offer the Scottish event industry.

The London 2012 Festival and the Cultural Olympiad will see over 50 cultural events - with an estimated attendance of 300,000 - being staged in Scotland in the lead up to, and during, the Olympics, all supported by some £5 million in Government funding. Viewed collectively, it can reasonably be assumed that these events should offer business opportunities for a range of event suppliers, both in the regional centres where they are being conducted, for example Stirling, and in the key cities of Edinburgh and Glasgow.

For many Scottish event industry businesses, London 2012 has provided their first foray into the world of tendering for large-scale event contracts. This experience will be particularly valuable in the lead up to the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games where hundreds of direct contracts and thousands of sub-contracts are now available. To date, Scottish companies have won 84% of the 2014 contracts awarded

Making this process easier for Scottish firms has been the Scottish Government’s decision to drive the legacy outcomes from large scale events via its ‘Games Legacy for Scotland’ initiative, one aspect of which - Business Club Scotland - involves linking business to opportunities associated with major international events.

The ‘repulsion effect’ - the perception commonly associated with large-scale events that huge numbers of tourists can result in high prices and crowding - may also provide enhanced opportunities to create or attract both business and cultural tourists to Scotland during the Games period.

The extent of this effect is difficult to gauge, however a survey by the European Tour Operators Association found that bookings for London were down for the 2012 Olympic period by some 90%. Given this feedback, the decision by Creative Scotland - the Government agency charged with developing the arts, screen and creative industries - to deem 2012 the Year of Creative Scotland, and to build a program of events around this theme might well attract such displaced organisations and visitors.

The high level of demand for event industry products and services associated with the 2012 Games may well create shortages that can be exploited by event industry firms located outside the South-East England region. At the Sydney Olympics, smart operators in other cities were able to leverage the inevitable shortfall of items such as tables and chairs, marquees, catering services, event organising services, security staff, lighting and staging equipment as the event drew near. They even managed to charge a substantial premium over normal market rates. Driving these shortages in large measure were the many satellite events - in particular meetings, conferences and exhibitions - that formed around the event. Scottish firms that are able to position themselves to exploit such shortfalls may find themselves benefiting significantly from the 2012 Games.

And what of the longer term? The more the Scottish event industry is able to connect with the London 2012 Olympic Games, the more it will be able to develop a base of experience that will prove invaluable as the 2014 Commonwealth Games draws closer.

A successfully delivered Commonwealth Games will in turn enhance the Scottish ‘brand’ in the field of large scale event delivery and aid efforts directed at attracting other such high profile events. Crucially, it will serve to market Scottish expertise in event planning and help delivery business globally.

Dr Rob Harris will be working with Edinburgh Napier University to deliver an Executive Certificate in Event Management, a four day intensive course which will run 23 Jan – 26 Jan 2012 in Edinburgh and 30 Jan – 2 Feb in London. For more information visit:

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