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Olympics| Exhibition World Fun and Games? L arge- scale events such as a World Expo or the Olympics bring the host city into the international spotlight. With the creation of venues capable of supporting vast numbers who flood these cities for the short time the games run, there are major opportunities for exhibition companies once the Olympic crowd departs. When the Games end and the visitors head home, what becomes of these massive venues constructed to accommodate the sporting events and throngs of people? With Vancouver now in the aftermath of a successful yet hugely expensive Winter Olympics, London exhibition professionals are all thinking about how they will cut themselves a slice of the 2012 pie. What can London's post- games development team learn from cities like Vancouver, Beijing and Sydney in time to capitalise on the legacy of the 2012 Games? Venue Branding Vice- president of sales for the Vancouver Convention Centre, Claire Smith, says the venue was a little slow on the uptake when it came to branding opportunities. " The biggest lesson we learned was that there was a huge branding opportunity for our building and we didn't really think through how the convention centre was going to be an iconic heart of the event," she says. " It really almost became a religious symbol for the Games. We had people coming by the thousands to see it. I don't know that we really thoroughly understood the power of this symbol, and it took us a while to realise what an important part of the games this was." Other than missed branding opportunities, one of Smith's chief concerns for London is for the challenge of having proper infrastructure in place to accommodate and transport the throngs of visitors. " This is bigger than what we imagined and it was about more than a sporting event," she says. " The whole city infrastructure was completely overwhelmed. The Winter Olympics are obviously a much smaller scene than the summer Games, so the congestion in London is going to be profound. It's a bigger city but venues are spread out further. Logistically, it's going to be a challenge for moving people around." According to former Olympian and gold- medalist Jill Savery, now 2012 project manager for BioRegional Development Group in London, an aspect mostly overlooked in Vancouver was the targeting of specific Mike Trudeaulooks at the challenges of preparing for, hosting, and maintaining the legacy of the Olympics Model of the completed Olympic Stadium The London Olympic Stadium in progress photo courtesy of ODA

Exhibition World | Olympics THE MAGAZINE FOR THE GLOBAL EXHIBITION COMMUNITY WWW. EXHIBITION- WORLD. NET| May 2010| 15 demographics of visitor, such as the families of athletes as well as the support teams for each country. " There will be over 10,000 athletes at the games and each one has family and friends coming to town. Think about all those families that don't get special treatment." Also, the teams will be arriving in London well ahead of the beginning of the Games. " There are hundreds of thousands of people who are going to be coming through here in the next two years," she says. " Each team visit is like running a huge event in itself." London legacies The legacy of each Olympic venue is decided as part of the planning stage. The Olympic Stadium will have its upper tier removed, leaving a 25,000- person capacity sports venue and including a sports- focused school for 14 to 19- year- olds. The International Broadcast Centre/ Main Press Centre ( MPC) will become almost 75,000sqm of ' business opportunity' and the MPC will provide around 24,000sqm of commercial floor space. Arena Three, due to hold the handball preliminary rounds, modern pentathlon fencing and Paralympic goalball, will become a sports facility and venue for exhibitions and other events. Cost control Director of planning and operations for Vancouver Park Board, Piet Rutgers says the biggest challenge was the unforeseen escalation of construction costs. " All these Olympic projects really whipped up the construction market," he says. " In 2001 when planning began, construction costs grew by three per cent. Cost escalation accelerated every year. In 2006 costs grew by 13 per cent." In 2008, after work was completed, construction costs fell by almost 20 per cent. These costs weren't the only unforeseen expense. From original proposal to final word, the cost of the Vancouver Games spiraled wildly upwards. Security alone, estimated originally to cost $ 175m, ended up costing over $ 1bn. The Vancouver Olympics ended up costing, by some estimates, over CA$ 6bn. While some say the long- term revenue will top CA$ 10bn, Price Waterhouse Coopers released a study suggesting the real revenue will be just CA$ 1bn. The truth is, no one can say what the revenue is at the end of a day for an Olympic host city, because there is no ' end of the day'. Like an unpopular high- school student throwing a single, hugely successful house party, a city's reputation can be significantly and permanently boosted by a good Olympic games. It's not easy though. Australia was looking good from increased tourism revenue after hosting the Games in 2000. However, a combination of factors including the September 11 attacks and the collapse of a domestic airline caused tourism revenues to plunge. Olympic venues can also find lucrative careers hosting exhibitions and events. During the Beijing Olympics in 2008, the China National Convention Centre ( CNCC) hosted the fencing and pistol- shooting events and served as the main press centre and international broadcasting centre. Now the CNCC complex will open as an event venue offering 36,000sqm of exhibition space spread over six halls and 23,600sqm of meeting space. Vancouver legacy and challenges With the Vancouver Olympics complete, work is underway to adapt the permanent venues to their post- game purposes. While most of the venues existed prior to the games, many of them received upgrades and are now ready to reopen in greater capacity. Exhibition and event organisers are all hoping to capitalise on the destination awareness generated by the Olympics by hosting their 2010 and 2011 events in the coastal city. The Vancouver Convention Centre is now scrambling to prepare for what Smith says will be " the busiest year for events the city has ever had". As London prepares for the 2012 Olympics, Rutgers says important factors to consider are the venues' level of sustainability and how value can be added after the Games to encourage continued use. Using the momentum " From our perspective at the Vancouver CC, we want to take advantage of the momentum following the Olympics to raise awareness of our capacity to accommodate large exhibitions, and complex events," says the GM of the Vancouver Convention Centre, Ken Cretney. One lasting and often overlooked legacy of any Olympic Games is the skill- set and experience that come from hosting such a huge international event. " There is great expertise and excellence within our event community, and with so many of us playing various roles in the games, we are better positioned than ever to host other large international events," says Smith. Despite out- of- control costs in the run- up to and during the Games, Vancouver is hoping to partially recouping its loss by converting Olympic venues to versatile community space and event venues. With the London games looming, legacy planners and exhibition organisers alike should be careful not to miss the lessons to be learned from Vancouver. The Richmond Oval, a Vancouver Olympic Venue