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Arlene Foster and Lord Coe in crunch talks over Olympic contracts

By Lesley-Anne Henry

The Enterprise Minister has held an emergency meeting with Olympics officials to raise “serious concerns” that Northern Ireland is missing out on major construction contracts for the 2012 Games.

Arlene Foster called the crunch meeting with Olympics supremo Lord Coe after the Belfast Telegraph revealed how the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) had awarded two ‘tier one’ contracts to Ulster-based companies but 17 in Scotland and four in Wales.

The meeting in which Mrs Foster called for a “fair deal” took place in London on Monday.

“I have serious concerns that, although hundreds of Northern Ireland companies have registered for Olympic works, very few companies have successfully won contracts. I am aware of similar concerns in Scotland, Wales and North-East England,” she said.

“The Olympics present a valuable opportunity for local businesses. As building progresses on the main Olympic venues, the focus of procurement will shift from construction to the goods, works and services required to stage and implement the Games.”

Dungannon based McAvoy Group won the to build the basketball arena accommodation while Lagan Construction from Belfast is building the Central Park Bridge in the Olympic Park. A number of others businesses have been employed as official ODA suppliers.

But having lost the opportunity to stage a preliminary round of football, with more than £42m Lottery cash siphoned away from worthy causes and little evidence that any sporting venues will be used as a training camp, there are fears that Northern Ireland is seeing little of the riches promised in the Olympic dream.

As part of its awareness-raising activities to promote opportunities arising from the 2012 Games, Invest NI took 27 Northern Ireland companies to the Olympic Park and launched the CompeteFor business brokerage web portal to match buyers with potential suppliers. To date 1,142 businesses have registered with 4,300 opportunities posted on the portal.

These opportunities will be handled by the London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games. She said: “Invest NI plans to organise events to inform companies of the timescales of the opportunities open to them and how to actively bid for them via CompeteFor.”

She added: “Sporting events have real power to drive tourism and the Games are a unique opportunity to make Northern Ireland a destination of choice for visitors.

“I will be actively championing Northern Ireland as a tourism venue ahead of London 2012 and our job now is to make certain that tourism is a winner, both now, in the run up to and long beyond the Games.”

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