As ‘The Airport Economist’ I recently attended the Beijing Olympics. As I moved around a noisy, smoggy but very excited capital city, I noticed signs of Australia everywhere. The most visible symbol of course is the magnificent water cube designed by PTW architects. PTW won the Beijing contract after Austrade entered them in a Beijing Olympics competition – bidding for design for the main arenas and the Olympic Village - on the back of their award winning design at for the Aquatic Centre Homebush at the Sydney Games in 2000.
I attended the swimming finals with PTW CEO John Bilmon who has become something of a ‘rock-star’ architect with everyone asking for his photo outside the water cube. Australian designers and architects in general have done very well, with at least 6 major Olympic arenas being Australian-designed and many Australians acting as consultants to those designed locally by their Chinese counterparts.
Outside Beijing too, Australian architects such as Bligh Voller Nield, Cox Architects, URS, and Allen Jack + Cottier, Tim Court & Co have designed the sailing base in Qiangdao, the stadium in Tianjin and the Hong Kong Equestrian Centre.
Australia has also made a major contribution to high profile symbols of the Games. For example BHP Billiton has provided the ores in the medals, Bluescope has provided materials for the Olympic Torch, and the Torch relay was organised by Australian company, Maxxam International, led by their energetic managing director Di Henry.
And behind the scenes, Australian exporters – large and small – have been helping China to put on the greatest show on earth. For example, the lighting control systems in the hotels and the Olympic venues have been manufactured by Sydney company Dynalite led by the irrepressible Jimmy Du, the smoke alarm systems by Xtralis, the artificial turf in the hockey field is engineered by Sports Technology International and Argus has provided the mobile phone antenna’s in another Olympic landmark, the ‘bird’s nest’ stadium.
Logistics has been organised by Linfox and Smart Trans and companies like Biograde and Roaring 40s helping Beijing with the environmental aspects of the Games. In addition, companies like Great Big Events and Major Event Planning are helping Beijing with event management and sports marketing.
So the Aussies are a big hit in business at Beijing just as they were in the pool. But that is to be expected as China is a developing country. What about London 2012? Can we teach the mother country a thing or two about putting on the Olympics?
Well the answer is we already are. After all the Brits have imitated the Australian institute of sport model and many British swimmers have Aussie coaches. It’s just like in cricket, when the English cricket authorities copied the Australian cricket academy and lured Rod Marsh over to the old dart. In Beijing, Austrade hosted a dinner for the London Organisers at Business Club Australia (Austrade’s business networking venue at Beijing) which included many Australians companies already picking up business for London 2012 on the back of Sydney 2000 and Beijing 2008.
According to according to the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) Chair, Mr John Armitt, CBE, who was the keynote speaker at the dinner, Australia has a significant international reputation for staging and managing sporting events.
'Australia really knows how to do big sports events. We’ve all watched with great admiration as they’ve staged international events, such as Sydney 2000, that are recognised as among the very best,' he said.
'At London 2012 we receive valuable advice from many of those involved in the planning of the Sydney 2000 Olympics and our Chief Executive, David Higgins, is of course an Australian who worked on Sydney and brings huge experience from this period.
'In addition we and LOCOG are already working with 10 Australian businesses on various projects and their support will be crucial as we plan towards London 2012'.
From an Australian point of view, Austrade’s Senior Trade Commissioner for the UK, Kylie Hargreaves, said that Business Club Australia, Australia’s official business program for Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, hosted a special event to highlight Australian Olympic capability to core members of the London 2012 team.
'With 2012 now on the horizon we thought it timely for the UK and Australia to network as the “big build” begins for the London Games and Beijing is the perfect place to showcase our expertise,' said Ms Hargreaves.
Companies that were big in Beijing are already involved in building the infrastructure for London 2012 with well known names such as Westfield, HOK Sport Architecture, Sinclair Knight Merz, Intelligent Risks, PTW Architects, Bligh Voller Nield, Cleanevent, Denton Corker Marshall all doing their bit. Lend Lease has become an important player as it is involved in the regeneration of east London where many of the Games venues are located. According to Armitt '10 per cent of workers on Olympic related projects were previously unemployed' in an area that has experienced significant social disadvantage.
The London Olympics will also Australian exporters to throw off their 'Europhobia' and get some 'Eurovision' as the 2012 games will also provide an opportunity to form alliances with UK and European partners, allowing consortia to bid for future northern hemisphere projects, such as the Euro 2012 football tournament in Poland and the Ukraine in 2012, and the Sochi Winter Olympics in 2014 in Russia.
So as the caravan packs up and leaves Beijing, Australian exporters are gearing up for 2012. After all, race for Olympic business never ends, and Australian companies can hear London calling.