For more than six years, this column’s default position regarding the Olympic Games has rarely budged beyond healthy scepticism.
It’s a stance borne of a deep mistrust of government figures, particularly predictions and claims which have a sorry tendency to range from the obviously selective to the clearly massaged for overtly political purposes.
A typical hack’s attitude? Not really. As someone who read economics at the University of Bristol then trained and worked as an accountant for seven years, it’s quite natural for your columnist to question where centrally-produced figures come from and how they’re calculated.
In fact, from a business/sporting perspective, it would be truly astonishing were the budgeted costs for London’s Olympics to remain at £9.35 billion as they have for several years.
Most people expect that figure to be revised upwards within a relatively short time of the IOC bidding farewell to London and heading to Rio for the 2016 Olympic Games.
That said, this column’s position vis-à-vis the Games, while invariably sceptical, (hopefully) veers away from outright cynicism.
And so I am grateful to the efforts of the energetic Jim Johnston of West Midlands for 2012 who supplied details of 376 locally-based companies who have won contracts, either as main contractors or sub-contractors, to supply their products or services to London 2012.
The value of these contracts exceeds £532 million, a fantastic reflection on the drive and competitiveness of local businesses.
Indeed, Mr Johnston is convinced that West Midlands firms have secured additional contract awards: “There are certain to be many more,” he says, “buried in the complex supply chains at the Olympic Park and other 2012-related projects.”
Many companies, primarily in the building supplies sector, have won multiple contract awards.
It transpires that businesses operating in 57 of the West Midlands’ 58 parliamentary constituencies have secured Olympic supply contracts, so comfortably surpassing the original £400 million target for local enterprises.
Moreover, as Mr Johnston points out, the business opportunities will not grind to a sudden halt once the Paralympics’ closing ceremony concludes.
“Millions of pounds’ worth of contracts will be available for several years after the Olympics have ended,” he says, “primarily due to the conversion of the Olympic Park. For example, the Olympic Village’s 2,800 apartments must be converted from their hotel-style format to more conventional accommodation.
“Two locally-based firms, BAM Nuttall and Balfour Beatty have won the principle contracts for converting the Olympic Park North and South respectively. The likely knock-on effect for West Midlands’ firms could be enormous.”
Such a positive reaction is in stark contrast to that of Nick Buckles, chief executive of security firm G4S, who admitted on Tuesday that he regretted taking on the Olympic security contract. He agreed with the Home Affairs Select Committee that the company’s performance had been a “humiliating shambles”.
Indeed, around 17.5% of the value of the G4S contract, an estimated £50 million, could be clawed back from the company because it failed to properly execute the contract.
However, while Mr Buckles’ admission initially wiped £340 million off his company’s stock market value on Monday as its shares tumbled by more than 8%, by mid-morning on Wednesday, they were the FTSE100’s second best performer, rising by 8p (3.3%).
The G4S episode will, no doubt, run and run and it seems highly unlikely that the company will tender for many high-profile security contracts which involve supplying staff in their thousands anytime soon.
Yet thankfully, many West Midlands-based firms have enjoyed an Olympic experience in complete contrast to that of G4S.
Wolverhampton-based Zaun Fencing, for example, which employs around 60 people, is an Olympic success story.