In all the excitement of the successful London Olympic bid, much attention has understandably been focused on the potential to boost sport in the UK.
Quite right too, and if the prospect of the greatest show in sport pitching up on our doorstep helps to reverse the nation’s decline into junk food-fuelled inertia, so much the better.
But we should not lose sight of the fact that before the athletes step out onto the track in 2012, the UK will have asked its engineering and technology community to deliver on a scale not seen on these shores for many years. It also presents the opportunity to lay to rest any image of the UK as the land of the make do- and-mend approach to the big project.
From the transport links that will ferry the Olympians to their events and the glittering new venues in which they will compete, right down to the fine detail of the wireless communications networks used inside the stadiums, the event will act as a showcase for the best the world has to offer.
Even better, it will act as a gala for the best of UK engineering and technology. And that is the important opportunity that should not be missed. It would be a shame if the lion’s share of the huge Olympic infrastructure was designed and built by overseas companies.
UK owned, or at least UK-based, businesses should be given every opportunity to prove that they can supply the technical know-how to make the Olympics work. Of course, the organisers of the games will want the best, and will want the event to be cost-effective. There is no reason why both these criteria should not apply to domestic companies, and the Olympics is a fantastic opportunity to change perceptions of the UK’s ability to manage and deliver huge projects bristling with advanced technology.
Just as we hope the Olympic spirit will enthuse the nation’s young people with interest in sport, the UK’s engineering community has the chance to perform on the grand stage. Let’s just hope it is given every chance to do so. Who knows, the sight of the games taking place — and hopefully UK engineers proving they can deliver the goods — might prompt a few youngsters to think that if they can’t make it as a 100m runner, the next best thing might be to get involved in building something so special.
Let the action commence.