Hosting the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games in London will present many opportunities for UK organisations. For some, these will be directly commercial, such as winning supplier contracts for the various projects needed to host the event. But there will also be benefits such as the chance to increase brand visibility when Britain moves into the international spotlight or tapping into the Olympic ethos of discipline, determination and success within companies' own cultures. With just three years to go, leaders of organisations should be asking themselves if they are currently doing enough now to capitalise on these opportunities.

Clearly, the success of London 2012 relies heavily on individuals and organisations proactively getting involved. As Martin Sutton, Head of Propriety, Camelot Group plc comments: "The London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games is a great opportunity for the whole of the UK and will bring immense benefits to communities far and wide. I think it's important that people across the UK - businesses, communities, athletes and supporters - get involved. People will do that in different ways, but I think it's important for everyone to play their part. Come 2012, the eyes of the world will be on London. The National Lottery will be playing its part by raising £2.2 billion towards the infrastructure of the Games."

There is, of course, the risk that organisations will be so focused on cost-cutting in the current climate, they will be slow to take up the Olympic opportunity. Leaders must be careful not to bypass opportunities to win or promote business while trying to recession-proof their organisations. Ian Ryder, Deputy CEO, British Computer Society fears that not enough emphasis is being put on the long-term commercial opportunities the event could offer. He says: "The Olympics, love them or hate them, always have a major impact on host nations. We should not ignore the debate about long-term ROI to UK plc and the opportunity to showcase our capabilities for both short and long-term commercial return."  

Ian continues: "Smaller sponsorships, not the massively expensive core Olympic support, but doing something for local sports clubs or athletes as part of the CSR strategy, is something that many companies could do but are shying away from in the rush to cut spending in the downturn. For some organisations there will definitely be opportunities but we have to realise that it won't be for all and it is likely to be more London-centric than regional, this is where local sponsorship could play a part."

Commercial gain aside, organisations can also benefit from the fact that sport, and the culture of competition, personal achievement and winning will be in the public eye. Simon Clegg, Chief Executive, British Olympic Association (1997-2008) explains: "As we enter the most exciting decade in the history of British sport with London staging the 2012 Olympic Games, the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow and possibly England hosting the 2018 World Cup, there is a fantastic opportunity for British businesses to establish themselves as global leaders within the international sports events industry." 

Duncan Lewis, Strategic Lead, Marketing, Commercial and Communications for Commonwealth Games England shares Simon's  sentiment: "With a Commonweath Games and a football World Cup coming in 2010, the London Olympics in 2012 and then another Commonwealth Games in 2014, we are entering a period where sport will be at the top of the public consciousness for a sustained period of time. Businesses need to take a considered view on whether and how they try to surf this wave of interest and activity. The real winners are likely to be companies who take an integrated approach, ensuring that they not only choose the right sponsorship deals, but that they also activate them in a way that makes them relevant to their customers."

Adrian Moorhouse, Managing Director, Lane4 and Olympic Gold Medallist, believes that organisations should use the spirit of the Olympics to promote best practice. He says: "Using the Olympics to drive employee engagement and performance still remains a nice to have rather than a fundamental component of business strategies. There are millions of employees across the UK whose performance would improve if they began to develop the techniques that Olympians use to handle pressure, maintain self belief, set goals and recover from set-backs. However, too many leaders are failing to use the performance lessons from the Games to develop their employees and leave a lasting legacy within their organisation."

We've had a couple of successful events on the relationship between sport and business performance. At one, paralympic swimmer Giles Long discussed the benefits of linking athletics and the business community. The subsequent article, Maintaining the Momentum of Success, is available on Criticaleye. Additionally, if you are interested in the topics raised in today's newsletter, please see the Summary Notes from our recent Discussion Group, The Recession: A Winning Opportunity where delegates discussed creating winning teams using lessons from sporting teams.

Please let me know if you have anything to add to the comments in today's newsletter.