Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: Clock is ticking for Olympic contracts

In two years time the world’s biggest sporting event, the Olympics, will be held in London.

When the venue was first announced, there was the promise that every region of the UK could cash in on the Games — through gaining construction or services contracts, or becoming a base for visiting teams. Northern Ireland, far from gaining, appears to be losing out on a grand scale.

It has already lost more than £42m of lottery funding — used to support the arts and sport in the province — which was diverted to London for the Olympics. Only two Northern Ireland companies have won significant contracts relating to the games and no country has yet signed up to use facilities here as a pre-Olympic training camp.

While it has to be accepted that Northern Ireland is a peripheral region of the UK, it is still faring worse than Scotland or Wales. It is difficult to establish where the blame lies. Have the industrial investment agencies and sporting bodies in Northern Ireland failed to press our case hard enough? Is our traditional lack of entrepreneurial zeal the reason for few local companies winning construction or service contracts? Are the organisers of the games too London-centric and simply failing to give outlying regions a sporting chance?

While we have some very good sporting facilities, such as the centre of excellence at the University of Ulster, there is no doubt that the lack of a national stadium — and the unseemly row over proposals to build one — hindered our case to be considered as a venue for some events. That should not stop us trying to woo national teams to come here to train in the run up to the Olympics. Every team would bring a cash injection to the local economy.

There is around £1bn worth of commercial |contracts still available and, in these times of |recession, Invest NI and local entrepreneurs should be beating down the doors of the Games organisers to win some of those before it is too late. So far we have been also-rans, rather than potential gold medal winners, in the race to become competitive.

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