· 2 min read · Features

It's easy to be cynical about the Olympics, but now is the time to stop whinging


With Beijing, it is the media and artistic crackdown post-Olympics that people remember. In Athens, it is the debt of €50,000 for every Greek household, while in Sydney they are “still paying the price”, says the former chief planner.

While many a city has successfully hosted the Games, the aftermath has often proved a disaster.

Legacy is the poisoned chalice of an Olympiad. All potential hosts stress this element in their costly pitches and it is often a winning argument when it comes to choosing the successful one. But I believe this is the greatest example of Olympic spin, designed to get buy-in from the population as a whole, but generally failing to materialise.

London is no different in its aspiration. According to London 2012: "The Games will leave a key legacy of national benefits, in culture, sport, volunteering, business and tourism." But will it be the one to buck the trend and leave this lasting legacy?

As our Olympics Special starting on p23 shows, there is already an infrastructure legacy, with improvements on London transport services bringing benefits to East London. But many of these were planned anyway; they have just been brought forward. And what about the rest of the country?

Similarly, there has been much debate about the longer-term economic benefits, in particular with regards to the construction of facilities. Jobs for British workers, anyone? And what about the future of the venues? Now there's a bid, now there's not.

It is all too easy to be cynical about the Olympics and there are good reasons to be so. Business is worried London will come to a standstill at a time when keeping the economy moving, literally, is vital. Staff absence, difficulty in forecasting demand for products, congestion and problems getting into work - all could be serious issues over the summer.

But now it's time to stop whinging and focus on the opportunities the Olympics afford. This is a great chance to showcase the UK as a place for investment. Our diversity programmes are world class, our flexible workforce highly regarded. True, our customer service wouldn't get a medal at this stage, but let's show the world that, with training, engagement and a real value placed on service, we can be up there with the best.

The greatest Olympic legacy can occur in the area of people. Yes, it's great to have new facilities, and it's even better to be cheering on the cream of UK sportsmen and women. But get the people bit right and the UK will not look back.

So employers should heed Lloyds Banking Group's HRD of operations Sally Jones-Evans: "Don't be the one who gets to September and realises you have missed the chance the Olympics could bring."

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