Carrying a torch for British business

Shaun McCarthy

July 27, 2012   |   Posted by Shaun McCarthy

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It was a pretty hectic day on the Olympic Park yesterday. In the middle of the day I helped LOCOG host a tour of the Park’s sustainability features with Environment Minister Caroline Spelman and President of the United Nations Environment Programme Achim Steiner. In common with most people they were blown away by the Park and there was great enthusiasm to capture the learning legacy from this sustainability experience.

However we were upstaged a bit as Prime Minister David Cameron was also on the Park in the morning announcing a major event intended to promote inward investment and export business through London’s Olympic and Paralympic Games. This is expected to make a major contribution to the £13Bn of new investment resulting from the Games.

During the course of our assurance work we have seen many great examples of London 2012 providing a significant boost for British business. On Wednesday of this week I was honoured to be invited by LOCOG to a dinner before the final dress rehearsal of the Opening Ceremony. At dinner, I sat next to the two people who own the company that designed the Olympic torch. Whilst we have been critical of the non-low carbon torch in the past it was great to hear about their technical and economic success. The designers have been swamped with new business as a result of this project, and so have the manufacturers. The torch was designed in London and made in Coventry. It required two significant technical innovations. Firstly, it is made of aluminium to keep the weight down to 0.5kg and is coloured gold. The traditional way of colouring aluminium (anodising) tends to discolour and flake off when in contact with heat. Our own Torch Bearer, Commissioner Melba, bought her torch to a meeting this week and it still looked perfect. A new form of titanium based coating had to be developed. This is a great exportable innovation. Secondly, the little holes in the torch needed to be cut by a laser machine. The best and fastest machine of its type in the world is made in Germany but the size of the order meant that the Coventry based firm could afford to invest in such a machine and use it to compete with the world for similar work. Two great little British firms; brilliant artistic and technical innovation, great export potential and a significant contribution to jobs and the economy.

There are hundreds of examples like this, stories that may never be told but all making a contribution to our economy. An army of economists would struggle to measure the impact, although the Government are trying to do this through their meta-evaluation.

These are gloomy economic times and a great 2012 party will not allow us to suspend reality for long. However I remain confident that there will be a lasting economic legacy from the Games that will make us a little less gloomy in the longer term.

Shaun McCarthy

July 2012

One Response to Carrying a torch for British business

  1. Ian Crossley says:

    Shaun – I agree with much of what you say. But should companies that have made a significant contribution to making London 2012 the first ‘sustainable’ Games be allowed to promote their contribution.
    Jonathon Porritt said that the future would be sustainable or not at all – if we have companies here that are cutting edge in sustainability, shouldn’t we be shouting about this for the benefit of both London 2012 and the UK’s future economic prospects?
    I’d welcome your comments.

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