Date of release: Wednesday, October 7, 2015

The London Olympics and Urban DevelopmentThe winners and losers of the London Olympics were not confined to those taking part on field or track, according to a new study published by University of Greenwich business expert Peter Vlachos.

His research into the impact of the 2012 Games on small local businesses reveals that many traders had to endure 'substantial disruption' and hardships, with only a smaller proportion experiencing a positive 'windfall' effect.

Carried out over several years in various parts of London, and involving hundreds of interviews with small business managers and owners, Mr Vlachos' study challenges the conventional view that the Olympics delivered boom times and prosperity to anyone with a commercial stake in the city.

The study forms part of a new book, The London Olympics and Urban Development: The Mega-Event City (Regions and Cities), which features the latest research by academics and policy-makers into its social, political and cultural implications.

The much-heralded business bonanza simply didn't happen for many small, local shops and businesses such as those in Greenwich and Woolwich, he states. "For small businesses to take advantage, and cash in on all the visitors to London, they needed to be on the 'walking flow path', but of course many weren't. The rerouting of car and foot traffic, and the closure of the Cutty Sark DLR station, immediately created winners and losers in trading terms," he says.

"Road blockages, such as those in Greenwich town centre, and restricted access, led to many local businesses reporting sharp drops in trading income compared to normal summers. Some traders rented space north of the Olympic Park, for instance, to put up food stalls, but the promised foot traffic didn't materialise. We also found attendance figures at arts, cultural and heritage venues dropped across London."

He concludes that many small businesses found little to cheer about the Olympics. "Few engaged with the business possibilities. They did not use it as an opportunity to launch new ventures or invest in machinery, for example. Most were worried about issues such as short-term cash flow and transport disruptions, and they found the Olympics of little relevance."

Mr Vlachos' chapter, The 2012 Olympics and Small Local Businesses: A five year longitudinal study of south-east London, does find that there were winners as well.  "That London as a whole benefited from the publicity and the knock-on regeneration effect is beyond question," he says. "Larger organisations such as local authorities benefited from the promotion of Greenwich, which cemented its reputation as an ideal place host international events. But from small traders, the message we had was quite consistent: the Games had been at best irrelevant, and in many cases detrimental to businesses."

A member of the university's Department of Marketing, Events & Tourism, within its Business School, Mr Vlachos' research interests include culture and entertainment-led urban development and regeneration. He received widespread international coverage for his work about the future of the British high street, which was featured by media ranging from Fox News in the USA to the Seattle Times and the Toronto Globe and Mail.

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Story by Public Relations