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AS LONDON PREPARES FOR THE GLOBAL SPOTLIGHT SHINING ON THE WORLD'S BIGGEST SPORTING EVENT, DOMENIC DONATANTONIO ASKS WHETHER THE CITY CAN REACH THE FRONT OF THE FIELD FOR EXHIBITIONSCAPITAL GAINS

ny number of picture postcards, history lessons and even a map of the globe point to London having a strong case for sitting at the centre of the world.Now, as host of the Olympics this year, the exhibition industry can confi dently expect an enormous fi nancial shot in the arm from the arrival of the greatest sports event on the planet. London 2012, from 27 July to 12 August, will bring an estimated £500m (US$809) in additional business visits expenditure to the capital.Ahead of the games, two of London's most iconic venues will also benefi t from the improvements in infrastructure.With the construction of the cable car from the Greenwich peninsula to the Royal Docks underway, the O2 Arena will be effectively linked with Excel London, the capital's biggest exhibition venue. The cable car will cross the river at a height of 50 metres and could provide a crossing every 15 seconds, carrying up to 2,500 passengers per hour in each direction, equivalent to the capacity of 50 buses.But will London's exhibition venues receive additional legacy benefi ts courtesy of the capital's time under the international spotlight? According to the latest rankings from the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA) in 2010, calculated by the number of eligible meetings per city, London is 14th, behind Istanbul, Taipei and Buenos Aires, and top three cities Vienna, Barcelona and Berlin. Overall, London is on an upward trend, having risen fi ve places since 2008, but it indicates there is a lot of work still to be done to bring those business travellers to the UK.The future of the Earls Court venue has also cast some doubt over London's exhibition capacity. The anticipated demolition of the west London venue, home to exhibitions for 75 years, has caused concern in the industry. Owner CapCo has proposed a 7,500 home development on the Earls Court site. And with both Hammersmith and Fulham, and Kensington and Chelsea councils both agreeing to supplementary planning guidance that supports the principles behind the development, it seems the future of the venue will be short-lived. CapCo hopes to lessen the impact of Earls Court's loss by refurbishing its smaller west London venue, Olympia.However, Excel London's MD David Pegler dismissed fears that the profi le of the UK capital will