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BW Businessworld

A Business Olympics

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The biggest ever drive to attract investment in Britain has been launched by British Prime Minister David Cameron on 26 July.  Cameron says he wants more than gold medals as London hosts the Olympics — he's hoping for a boost to the country's stalled economy as well.

Cameron urged global business leaders, who have gathered in London ahead of the Olympics, to invest in Britain,. This comes a day after data showed that the economy was in much worse shape than previously thought.  Swamped by the general feeling that Olympics is a bad business: (Read) Cameron is tryng to drum up business deals.

The British Business Embassy, the biggest ever drive to attract investment into Britain, launches with 4,000 business leaders, policy makers and investors due to meet in a 19th-century building close to St James's Palace. Latest economic data released on 25 July showed that the economy shrank far more than expected in the second quarter, battered by everything from an extra public holiday to the euro zone crisis.

David Cameron, the Prime Minister, will join IMF chief Christine Lagarde, Bank of England Governor Sir Mervyn King and ECB President Mario Draghi for the Global Investment Conference, the first major event hosted by the British Business Embassy. It will also hear from business leaders such as Eric Schmidt, the executive chairman of Google, Sir Martin Sorrell, the boss of WPP, Sir Jonathan Ive, the designer of Apple's most iconic products, Sir Andrew Witty, the chief executive of GlaxoSmithLiKline, and Warren East, the boss of ARM.

Indian Tycoons Too Are There
Incidentally, a galaxy of Indian business leaders are expected in London for the Olympics. Reliance Industries Chairman Mukesh Ambani, UB boss Vijay Mallya, Bharti chief Sunil Mittal, Bajaj Auto Chairman Rahul Bajaj, HDFC's Deepak Parekh and Hero MotoCorp's Pawan Munjal are all expected to be there.

There will also be LN Mittal, the Indian-born but London-based business tycoon, whose company Arcelor Mittal has sponsored The Orbit, a 115-metre-high steel sculpture that is Britain's largest piece of public art and is intended to be a permanent, lasting legacy of the games. Mittal has a host of events and private entertaining lined up.

Not Only The Brits
It is not only the British that are hoping to make money from the Olympics. Kenyan athletes competing at the 2012 Olympic Games may be forgiven for thinking they are in London to win medals and achieve sporting glory, but the government of east Africa's largest economy has other ideas. In between the 10,000m races and the marathon - events Kenya is expected to win - pitches will be made and deals done and the hope is that a record medal haul for the country and the headlines it brings will help boost investment.

Joining, and possibly outnumbering, the 50 or so medal hopefuls in London will be Kenya's president Mwai Kibaki and a delegation of government officials, heads of state-owned enterprises and bankers, who will be attending a neatly timed investment summit and diaspora conference.

Olympics Cost
As The Time Magazine points out no other mega sporting event is as financially risky as hosting the Olympics. Every Games since 1960 has overrun its initial budget, and not just by a few percentage points, but by an average of 179 per cent. Countries not only spend hundreds of millions of dollars on sports venues that could be spent on much-needed infrastructure, but those venues often go unused once the Olympics are over.

The government is keen to assuage critics of the Games who say the event is too expensive at a time of strained public finances, by highlighting the business opportunities offered by the event and uses of Olympic venues after the Games have ended.

British officials say the Games will cost 9.3 billion pounds to host.

Despite forking out to host the event, Cameron and others say a credible austerity plan is crucial if Britain is to retain market confidence and keep its borrowing costs low.

Angel Gurria, secretary general of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), warned on Thursday that the markets would come down on Britain "like a tonne of bricks" if they detected weakness.