Olympic bid economy boost

SUFFOLK is today making strides to exploit the potential multi-million pound economic boom from London's 2012 Olympic bid, The Evening Star can reveal.

SUFFOLK is today making strides to exploit the potential multi-million pound economic boom from London's 2012 Olympic bid, The Evening Star can reveal.

The county council is to hold talks with the London bid committee and the British Olympic Association about providing a support package for the Games.

At just an hour away from the capital and a major gateway to Europe, Suffolk would provide an ideal platform for the huge influx of tourists and organisations arriving in Britain over the coming years.

Long-term investment and extra profit for local businesses contracted to the Games would run into many millions of pounds.

Initial plans involve offering teams, tourists and other groups an all-inclusive visit, whereby they can stay in Suffolk and travel to London for events.

And authorities here are already eyeing up venues - including Portman Road football stadium and various yachting harbours around Ipswich - to convert into training facilities.

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Councillor Kevan Lim, the county council's executive member for economic and social regeneration, said: “We need to consider the business opportunities leading into the Games, not just the two-week period of sporting activity. As soon as the 2005 announcement is made, the Olympic Host brand would become a huge marketable asset for pre- and post-Olympic tourism.

“Suffolk has unique features to offer visitors, and our proximity to east London offers a credible and attractive option for hosting organisations and groups associated with the Olympic movement.”

The London bid at present does not place any events in Suffolk itself, but it is possible it could host preliminary and qualifier events.

But there is a strong possibility the county will host some of the biggest teams and most famous Olympic athletes.

Many teams prefer to use countryside retreats as a base for training away from the intensity of the city and many see the county as a prime location.

Even the blueprint for the university in Ipswich, which would contain various sporting facilities, has been taken into consideration.

Mr Lim said: “The teams will not be doing any intensive training in the run-up to the Games. There are facilities, like Ipswich Town football club, that would be ideal for some of the teams to use.”

Other options include looking at bringing Scandinavians to Suffolk through Harwich and The Evening Star also understands the port of Felixstowe may even be adapted to allow domestic shipping to bring more tourists into the region.

Mr Lim said: “I have no doubt that if the bid is successful then some of the operators at the port would want to do it.”

Tess Wright, managing director of the East of England Tourist Board, said: “We believe the Games would substantially increase tourism to the UK and encourage visitors who may well not have visited before. We feel this region is ideally placed to be able to take advantage of this boost to the economy.”

What do you think about Suffolk's involvement in the bid process? Write in to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or email eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk or visit the forum at www.eveningstar.co.uk.

FAST FACTS: The Olympic Boom

During the Sydney 2000 Olympics, regional businesses won over £544million in contracts.

In the Hunter Region, about as far from Sydney as Suffolk is to London, local businesses were awarded over £77million in Games contracts, creating over 800 jobs.

Accommodation bookings increased by 114 per cent during the Games.

Inbound tourism peaked in Australia, with 1.6million visitors spending over £3billion.

Between 1993 when Australia was named as the host and 2007, over £600,000 is expected to be generated from conferences and business events.

Research indicates that 88pc of the 110,000 people who came specifically for the Games were likely to return to the country.

Total retail sales from the Games are estimated at over £500milion.

Source: Pricewaterhouse Coopers.