The 2012 Olympics - opportunity or threat to small businesses?

By: John Davis

Date: 1 February 2012

Recently, I read that 55 per cent of small-business owners in London do not think the Olympics will pose any disruption to their sales or operations. Only 14 per cent were concerned about transport issues and less than one in 10 business owners were worried about staff availability (according to research carried out for Deloitte).

This prompted me to investigate whether they are right not to be concerned, or whether contingency planning is advisable, by weighing up the opportunities and threats that the games may pose.


  • 11 million spectators are expected to flock to Olympic and Paralympic events in the city, generating a huge source of potential customers and spending, particularly for the tourist, leisure and catering industries.
  • 500,000 visitors are expected to arrive from abroad, creating an opportunity for small businesses to raise their profile among a brand new pool of customers and potentially unlock the door to a global market.
  • The Olympics are expected to create a positive mood among consumers, driving them to spend more, which would open up a wealth of opportunities for innovative small businesses to increase their revenues.


  • An additional three million journeys are forecast to take place in London over the seven-week games period, putting pressure on the tube and bus network and potentially making access difficult for small business staff and supply/distribution networks.
  • Diversions, traffic and parking restrictions may also hinder accessibility to small business premises.
  • Should the Olympic Games not run smoothly or generate negative publicity, small business revenue could drop (as in the case of the 2004 Greece games).

Overall, the opportunities and threats are roughly balanced, but they will vary from business to business. Therefore, to tip the scales towards ‘Opportunity’, I would advise each business to assess the risks in advance and devise a management plan, based on their location in relation to event venues and individual operational dependencies. Putting aside time now to prepare will minimise the threats and increase the chances to successfully reap the many rewards that will be available.

John Davis, managing director of Business Centric Services Group

What does the * mean?

If a link has a * this means it is an affiliate link. To find out more, see our FAQs.