Foster Goes for Olympic Gold

Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster has said she will do all she can to maximise local business and tourism opportunities from the 2012 Olympics.

The Minister, who met with Lord Sebastian Coe in London, said it was vital Northern Ireland businesses got a fair deal from the 2012 Olympics.

She said: "I have serious concern that, although hundreds of Northern Ireland companies have registered for Olympic works, very few companies have successfully won contracts. I am aware of similar concerns in Scotland, Wales and North-East England."

Emphasising the importance of making the most of the current opportunities the Minister continued: “The Olympics present a valuable opportunity for local businesses. As building progresses on the main Olympic venues, the focus of procurement will shift from construction to the goods, works and services required to stage and implement the Games.

“Invest Northern Ireland has provided training for over 100 local companies to develop their approach to professional tendering in relation to 2012 contracts. They have also taken 27 companies to the Olympic Park to see the development and receive presentations from BAM Nutall, Skanska and Team McAlpine, as well as supply chain specialists. Support is also provided on an ongoing basis to help companies with Olympic bids.”

Invest NI has also been working hard to promote opportunities arising from the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

The Minister said: “These opportunities will be handled by the London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games and are expected to increase towards the end of this year. Invest NI plans to organise events to inform companies of the timescales of the opportunities open to them and how to actively bid for them via CompeteFor."

Realising the very tangible tourism benefits of the Olympics the Minister continued: “Sporting events have real power to drive tourism and the Games are a unique opportunity to make Northern Ireland a destination of choice for visitors. Tourism Ireland are currently examining a number of options to encourage spectators and athletes attending the Olympics to extend their stay and to travel to Northern Ireland either before or after the Games.

“As the Titanic Signature Project, Giant’s Causeway Visitor Centre and the built heritage programme in Londonderry are all due to come to fruition in 2012, Northern Ireland Tourist Board, Tourism Ireland and VisitBritain are all working to maximize the opportunities that exist."

The Minister concluded: “I will be actively championing Northern Ireland as a tourism venue ahead of London 2012 and our job now is to make certain that tourism is a winner, both now, in the run up to and long beyond the Games.”