Opinion

Although the Olympics may be the greatest show on Earth, it's far from being the only show in town

David Fairhurst , 27 Apr 2012

David Fairhurst

Last month, I highlighted the crucial role that 177,000 people – more than a third of whom (70,000) will be volunteers – will play in a range of customer service and support roles during London 2012.

Within seconds of hitting the 'Send' button on the email to the editor, I realised I had omitted to mention 'a few' people: namely, three million, the number employed in UK hospitality, passenger transport, travel and tourism. They will be welcoming the world to those bits of the UK that aren't Olympic venues - that is to say, most of the realm.

These sectors employ one in 10 of the workforce and, to fuel anticipated growth, will be hiring 130,000 new workers every year until 2017.

It is this growth I would like to focus on here - because in January, BT's Race for the Line report found only 28% of UK organisations believe they will be seeing continued benefit from London 2012 a year or more after the Olympic flame is extinguished. Last month, this magazine highlighted how opinion was divided on the long-term legacy of the Games.

These opinions overlook one factor, the same important factor I overlooked last month. Although the Olympics may be 'the greatest show on Earth', it is far from being the only show in town.

This year, as well as London 2012, we are celebrating the Queen's Diamond Jubilee; almost £300 million-worth of tourism infrastructure is coming on-stream in Northern Ireland, including Titanic Belfast and the new Giant's Causeway Visitor Centre; and VisitScotland has joined forces with Disney/Pixar to undertake its biggest ever campaign to promote Scottish tourism, around this summer's launch of the animated feature film, Brave.

Next year, Wales and England have won the right to stage the Rugby League World Cup. In 2014, we have the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow and the Ryder Cup at Gleneagles.

In 2015, England will host the Rugby World Cup, and in 2017, the Olympic Park in Stratford will be opening its doors again, for the World Athletics Championships.

Together, these events create a powerful and growing momentum. It is a momentum that will benefit not just the hospitality, passenger transport, travel and tourism sectors - but the UK economy as a whole.

This momentum will not just create millions of additional visitors; millions of pounds of additional revenue; and hundreds of thousands of additional jobs. It also has the potential to act as a catalyst for wider inward investment and provide a sustained source of pride and confidence for the UK as a whole.

But momentum such as this doesn't come easily. We can all remember the joyous scenes in 2005 when - after years of hard work - the decision London would host the 2012 Games was announced. It was a decision that was simply the starting pistol for a further seven years of hard work and financial investment.

Every single one of the initiatives I have highlighted above - along with many other cultural and sporting occasions, big and small, that will be taking place in cities, towns and villages across the UK over the next five years - will make its own demands on the organisers and the teams who will be making these events happen.

But the hard work will be worth it because, even though I am confident the Games will deliver its own legacy, the combined momentum of all of these other events will play a vital role in cementing this legacy and creating a lasting difference for the UK.

If HR practitioners can work with the leadership teams of their organisations to actively engage staff with these events, the difference we will make to the economic, social and cultural life of the UK will be enormous.

So, as you settle down to join a global audience of four billion watching the opening ceremony of London 2012, please remember: it's only the beginning of five fabulous years for the UK.

David Fairhurst (pictured) is chief people officer Europe at McDonald's

 

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