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The London Olympics legacy for UK business

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The word on everyone’s lips after last night’s closing ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics is “legacy”. 

One question is being asked: will London and the UK benefit long-term from the Olympics, be that on a sporting, economic or social level?

It’s for sure that the country is on a high. If someone could bottle the positive feelings being generated by the Olympics and unscrew the cap every time we faced some bad news about the economy or the next bank-led disaster, wouldn’t they have the foundations for a very successful business?

As I’ve written before, I’ve always been sceptical about the financial benefits of hosting the Olympics. There have been days during the past two weeks when parts of London have been virtual ghost towns, which will have put retailers, restaurants and theatres under immense pressure.

And while the pavements have been empty, the roads have been jammed thanks to the ZiL lanes. Businesses that rely on being mobile, like mine, also lost out. In the first week of the Olympics the number of jobs serviced by Pimlico Plumbers dropped by around 14 per cent on the same time last year.

But maybe some good will come out of a bad situation. Apparently, Transport for London has issued £312,000 worth of fines because London motorists strayed into the lanes that were reserved for the likes of IOC boss Jacques Rogge, the president of the Republic of Tajikistan and the Brazilian beach volleyball team.

How about that money doesn’t end up in City Hall’s coffers and is used to help fund some grass roots sporting opportunities in the capital? 

Boris Johnson should tell those bureaucrats down at TfL to cough up the cash. After all, it’s a windfall that’s come about because of the Olympics, so why not make it part of its legacy!

On the back of so much sporting success and optimism, and just one short year after the London riots, this is the right thing to do.

Another positive knock-on effect for UK business, and therefore part of the ‘legacy’ of London 2012, is the demonstration that, on the whole, the UK is able to deliver the physical infrastructure required to put on such an outstanding spectacle under the watchful gaze of the entire planet.

According to the Institution of Civil Engineers, the Games are a perfect example of what can be achieved through science, technology, engineering and maths skills. They hope it will inspire many young people to take up engineering-related careers.

For companies like mine, that can only be a good thing; the skills gap is one of the biggest threats to this country’s future. 

The challenge for politicians of all parties and responsibilities is now to put the sniping to one side and take their own inspiration from so many of the Olympic athletes; to act as a team with the best interests of the country as their sole focus. 

Otherwise, the posturing by politicians and the rest of the great and the good will be shown as just that: posturing for political or financial gain. As a result, the country will be a socially and economically poorer place.

Charlie Mullins is the CEO and founder of Pimlico Plumbers.

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