Olympics provide a cash bonanza for Britain

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The Independent Online

Britain's athletes may have been given little hope of medals in Athens, but a clutch of the nation's businesses have already struck gold.

Britain's athletes may have been given little hope of medals in Athens, but a clutch of the nation's businesses have already struck gold.

The 2004 Olympic Games have thrown up British winners in fields as diverse as insurance, construction, catering, IT, telecoms and design. Jack Morton Worldwide, a London-based events management firm, even directed last night's opening ceremony, which was watched by an estimated 4 billion people.

UK Trade & Investment (UKTI), a Government body which supports British firms involved overseas, reckons that about 40 UK businesses have brought home a total of £50m from the sporting extravaganza.

Winners are not confined to the heavyweight division. The architect, Sports Concepts, also based in London, led a team of Greek designers to develop Athens' tae kwon do and handball venue.

SP Holdings, the AIM-listed marketing and financial services vehicle, landed a deal from Canada to promote casual clothing worn by the British Olympic team. And the Crawley-based Avesco, which supplies television screens for pop concerts, corporate and sports events, has also won business from Athens.

In a classic case of sending coals to Newcastle, Woodstock Terracotta, a Shropshire firm which makes garden pots, sent six £200 Grecian urns to Athens. There, they were embossed with the Olympic rings and given pride of place in the International Olympic Committee's (IOC's) showpiece hospitality suite. Woodstock's director, Martin Goodwin, said: "I'm very proud our pots are being used. They have a 10-year guarantee and are frost-proof, although I doubt that the Greeks have to worry about that sort of thing."

Glenfiddich looks likely to be a favourite toast of any winners. The distiller William Grant reported that shipments of the malt whisky to Greece have rocketed 170 per cent this year.

Other industries - advertising firms notable among them - are pinning hopes on the Games providing them with an upturn.

But it is perhaps insurers who are the torch bearers for UK plc. The threat of a major terrorist attack has prompted broadcasters, sponsors, advertisers and the IOC itself to shell out for unprecedented cover. This year's Games are insured against losses of more than $1bn, about a quarter of the cost of damage caused by the 11 September attack on New York.

Lloyd's of London, the first insurance market to take on the Athens risk, carries about a third of the total Olympic risk. Its underwriters will make about £20m in gross profit should the games pass without hitch.

Hiscox, a Lloyd's syndicate, has part-underwritten risk against a terrorist attack on the luxury liners acting as hotels in Athens, transportation cover for horses competing, and the possible loss of advertising revenue to the US television network NBC should Olympic programming be cancelled.