Business ideas for 2012: The Olympics

Why the London 2012 Games hold many opportunities for aspiring entrepreneurs

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Why is it so promising?

With some experts predicting that the Olympics will benefit the UK economy to the tune of £5.1bn, thousands of entrepreneurs are scrambling to get a slice of the action. With events taking place all over London, there are manifold opportunities for everyone from hotels to hot dog sellers, fashion houses to tour guides.

In fact, chief executive of LOCOG (the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games), Paul Deighton, expressed his fear that business hasn't recognised the level of opportunity available.

Every major sporting event triggers a boom in consumer spending. For example the Euro 2004 football championship boosted by the economy by £160m, even though the event was held in Portugal and England were knocked out well before the final. With this year's Olympics taking place in London, and athletes such as Sir Chris Hoy and Jessica Ennis becoming national celebrities, the marketing potential for this year's games is almost beyond estimation.

As covered by Startups last year, the Royal Wedding created all kinds of novel business opportunities, from face masks to Prince William impersonators. So, if you're blessed with creativity and entrepreneurial spirit, the Olympics could be the catalyst to realise your business dream.

What are the specific opportunities?

First of all, you should be very careful about selling Olympic-branded merchandise such as flags, hats and t-shirts. The Games' organising committee has this area sewn up, and will be extremely quick to crack down on any unofficial suppliers attempting to flog merchandise bearing the Olympic logo.

A hotel is another obvious way to capture the Olympic boom, but you may find no room at the inn with this one. According to Robert Holland, of the Bermondsey Square hotel in south-east London: “The press view on the spike (in hotel demand) is slightly over-exaggerated. The increased rate of hotel accommodation is largely accounted for by the travel companies, rather than the hoteliers in many cases.

Plus, if you're setting your sights on the Olympics, it would be really hard to set up a hotel in such a short space of time. Overall, I'd say this was an opportunity missed.”

However, a business which allows people to monetise their existing assets during the Olympics might have more joy. Sites such as, and, are likely to generate huge returns for people willing to rent out their property for tourists drawn by the games. After last year's Royal Wedding, and the sprawling bivouacs it fostered, it's clear that millions of tourists are going to come from all over the world without booking any transport or accommodation, and you can meet this gaping need.

Who's doing it?

Matthew Parker,

“I set up back in 2007 to put 2012 Olympic visitors, media and athletes together with London homeowners, and also help Londoners make the most of a once-in-a-lifetime financial opportunity for a short-term private rental. I'm a web developer myself and could see there was no other website (at the time) with the idea, so felt this would be a great challenge.

“The BBC made contact within the first few weeks and did a story about the private rental idea, in other words the opportunity for homeowners. This gave the website a great platform and international recognition. Since then media contact has come from the likes of AOL, MSN, Yahoo, The Guardian and The London Evening Standard. Traffic has been busy over the last few years (particularly last year during the Royal Wedding), but the last few weeks have been crazy.

“Adverts and visitor contact with homeowners have gone up dramatically, and I've noticed an increase in competitor contact. For example, in the last week a Canadian silver medalist from the Beijing Olympics, as well as Spanish and Australian Olympic team members have been using to find accommodation. I have also been contacted by a new Facebook property portal called ‘Property Place', wanting to use my data in return for exposure on their application.

“Going forward after the Olympics, I would like to expand into a general London private rental portal for Londoners who would like to offer private accommodation to tourists, students and business visitors, as well as tourists coming for major events such as Notting Hill Carnival, Wimbledon, The Queen's Diamond Jubilee and the Lord's cricket test.”

Published Jan 2012

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