Leaders July 2014

Seize the day

Primed to support Japan’s mega sporting events

As the Japanese government continues to flesh out its growth strategy through structural reform—Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s “third arrow”—foreign firms may be asking where the business opportunities lie. Perhaps recent developments in the UK provide some ideas.

With the UK’s position over the last 12 months as one of the world’s fastest growing developed economies, it is interesting to see the kind of activity that has been driving its revival.

Surprisingly, the financial sector has become relatively less important, while the manufacturing and construction sectors have expanded more rapidly than the economy as a whole.

It is the professional and business services sector, though, that has seen the fastest growth. From accountants and architects, to consultants and call centres, the sector grew more than 9% in the last year.

It is naive to expect that all countries will follow a similar path to economic recovery following the global slump.

For Japan though, the professional service sector may provide opportunities, not least in connection with the sporting events to be hosted here at the end of the decade—the Rugby World Cup (RWC) 2019 (page 30), and the Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2020 (page 26).

This is an area in which a number of British firms, flush with the experience of having delivered the Games in the UK, will be well positioned to contribute their skills.

Over the past month, members of the British Chamber of Commerce in Japan have joined events featuring veterans of the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games: Sue Hunt, former director of strategic programmes; and Neil Snowball, former head of sport operations.

In his current position as director of rugby operations, Snowball is contributing—just as are a number of other staff from London 2012—to the planning for RWC 2015, to be hosted in the UK.

Both Hunt and Snowball provided fascinating insights into what it takes to deliver a successful mega-tournament.

What has become clear is that, in order to execute what most mortals would consider crushingly ambitious plans, the London committee built itself around a core of exceptionally talented business professionals.

Not only that, it arguably broke new ground for such an organisation, with its effort to instil commercial discipline and corporate best practice in order to empower its staff.

Part of the legacy, then, of London 2012 is the blueprint on managing the Games. To deliver an event that can inspire the host nation and delight a global audience, requires exceptionally detailed planning, inspirational leadership, and clinical execution.

The organisers of Tokyo 2020 need to draw on the talents of the brightest and best people from Japan’s business world. It is hoped that there will be an abundance of opportunities for experienced firms from around the world to work with them.

Collaboration and professionalism will be key, and we are confident that British business will be ready to support Japan as it embarks on its work on what we all hope will be the best Games ever.