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Olympics contractors should be free to promote their contribution to London 2012

Nearly a fifth of all companies that have received decisions on an Olympics marketing licence have been turned down because they have failed one of a number of rather opaque criteria intended to protect the interests of the 10 official sponsors.

As Construction News reveals this week, there have been 1,043 applications for licences by companies and sole traders to be allowed to promote their contribution to making the Games such a huge success. But only 285 have been granted, while more than 50 have been rejected and 758 are still being processed.

Companies that have been rejected have been told only that they have failed one of the 11 criteria designed to ensure the official sponsors’ benefits are not undermined.

An enquiry as to which particular sponsors’ interests might be damaged in an individual case is met only with an apology for the disappointment and a list of the full 10.

Firms that worked on the Olympics were frustrated that they weren’t allowed to promote their work. They grumbled about it, they lobbied for the marketing ban to be lifted, but they accepted it.

To be told at this stage that they’re still not allowed to promote their involvement is a kick in the teeth. No one can sensibly believe that allowing specialist contractors in the UK to promote their contribution to the country’s brilliant Olympics a year later is a serious threat to some of the world’s largest multinational corporations.

In fact, GE, the sponsor whose operations are arguably closest to construction – and that’s still not that close – has told CN that it’s not too worried about the perceived conflict either. It’s before and during the Games that it really wants to ensure there’s no risk to its sponsorship.

Perhaps most surprising of all, when construction firms ask why their applications have been turned down, a firm may be told they can reapply if they wish, being clearer about exactly what their contribution to the Games was.

This has got to raise questions about the efficiency of the process and whether the British Olympic Authority, which is the body handling the applications, is asking the right questions in the first place.

But the issue is not really whose fault this is; it is whether it will be addressed. Everyone understands that the sponsors have rights for good reason, but it can’t be the case that nearly a fifth of the companies that worked on the Games, have received decisions and been rejected can be any real threat to those sponsors’ rights, particularly this long after the event.

The process needs to be made more transparent as a matter of urgency. There should be a working assumption that all companies that worked on the Games will get their licence, not just most of them.

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