Business Travel Tech Talk London, 16 October,
Business Travel Awards Europe, 30 October, JW
3rd Annual Business Travel Intelligence Summit
The motto of the Olympics more or less says that the glory is not in the winning but the taking part. London”s bid to hold the 2012 event does not even look like reaching the starting line if the views of some of our elected miseries are forced upon a less than interested prime minister. In the recent past some leaders of this country have been sports conscious, Harold Wilson, John Major (in more ways than one!) and to a lesser extent Sir Edward Heath. Maggie Thatcher was not interested, but at least you knew where she stood. The present incumbent appears to be a don”t know, hovering first one way and then the other. In soccer terms he says he supports Newcastle United, but is left far behind by the late lamented Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Basil Hume, a proper football fan.
ABTN believes strongly that a serious bid for the 2012 Olympics will be good for London, good for the UK, and very good for the business traveller and the business travel industry. A win will be a greater bonus, and a win is what we should aim for! But even a serious attempt at the prize will focus attention on this city and kick start the investment that has to be made if London is to remain a great trading centre. East London is the ideal venue, somewhat rundown and derelict but with major rebuilding under way or pledged. By 2012 (and in fact long before) Eurostar will be stopping at Stratford and running through to St Pancras. Excel already exists. London City Airport would have a rail link. And the East London railway will be in position. The Underground would have seen the results of new investment and Cross Rail, like the planned second runway at Stansted, fact rather than fiction. Even The Dome might have found a use (with the somewhat redundant Earls Court perhaps the Olympic swimming pool). Some of the 2012 bid is already in place or being put together.
Clearly the prime minister is scared of another Dome debacle, an example of what can go wrong when politicians interfere in events they do not understand. With the Commonwealth Games and the Queen”s Golden Jubilee the UK proved it could lay on the spectacular occasion. The Manchester games got on with it, and one presumes Buckingham Palace would not bend to political pressure with regard to Her Majesty”s 50 years. No expensive hangers on, just a resolve to get the job done.
Heathrow, in spite of its many shortcomings, is the world”s busiest international airport, proving, as if it were necessary, that indeed London is the true capital of the world. There are many who would attempt the take the crown, and some who might even succeed if we take our eye off the ball. With the demise of our manufacturing heritage it is essential that the service industries, vital to the economy, are supported at every opportunity. The Olympics epitomises this, an opportunity for inward investment and for the travel and leisure industry to show what it is made of. Other countries recognise this too. A poll, sponsored by the government, overwhelmingly showed national support. Mr Blair should grasp the opportunity and personally lead the London/UK application for the 2012 Olympics. Then we will see what sort of statesman he really is.