11 million Games tickets to be printed overseas - LOCOG's big printing mistake

Politicians and business people lash out at Boris and the Games committee for its decision to award the printing contract to an overseas company

Locog’s hit headlines again, but for all the wrong reasons. This time it is its decision to award the American company, Weldon, Williams & Lick of Fort William, the contract to print London Olympics tickets that has got the business community fuming.

Eleven million tickets for the Olympics and Paralympics Games will be printed in Arkansas, air-freighted 4,500 miles to the UK before being distributed to ticket holders at a £6 delivery cost.

So does no British firm have the requisite ability to print tickets for what will possibly be one of the biggest events in the UK’s history?

Apparently not.

A London 2012 spokesman said: “The contract to print tickets was awarded following a thorough, competitive and open tender run through [tendering website] Compete For.

“As with all of our contracts, a number of criteria are considered including the experience of working on projects of this scale, security, ability to handle large amounts of data and value for money.”

For Liberal Democrat mayoral candidate Brian Paddick, it’s just not good enough. He blames the London mayor.

“Boris Johnson constantly claims that London is the engine room of the UK economy, yet he has allowed this golden opportunity to create jobs for Londoners to slip through his fingers.

“The Olympics must create a legacy for this City, and awarding this contract to a business in America is not providing any fuel for the ‘engine’ that the Mayor refers to,” he told LondonlovesBusiness.com.

Lawrence Webb, UKIP Mayoral Candidate, agrees. “We have been told that the London Olympics is very much about its lasting legacy. There was a great deal made about the fact that local residents would be first in line for jobs during the construction, but in the end the definition of local was so vague that most of the jobs went to foreign workers, who simply had to provide a local address.

“Now we discover that the contract to print the tickets is not only going to a company outside London but outside the UK altogether.

“Londoners are good enough to bear the cost but it seems we are not even to be considered when it comes to sharing the profits. It is the London taxpayer who is going to bear the brunt of the final bill for these games, and it is local residents that endured disruption to their daily lives over that last few years. It is outrageous that this decision has been made,” he said.

Charlotte Phillips, director of the business studio agrees. “This was London’s chance to do whatever it takes to contribute to London’s legacy. The news that we had to look to America to print cards of what will be the most historic event in the UK is just disappointing. It just goes on to show how much the potential of London companies is undermined.”

Thomas de Freitas, managing director of specialist markets at Communicate Recruitment Solutions sees it differently: “The government must have had a decent reason to go with the Arkansas printing company. Even though Communicate is a small and entrepreneurial British company, I am proud to operate in a country where the best company wins contracts on a fair and open playing-field – and that this is open to other countries.”

He continued: “London is a global hub, situated perfectly between Asia and the Americas. As an economy, we benefit enormously from this. It seems a little much to complain when this goes against us on occasion.

“We can’t be a global forum when it suits us and an island when it doesn’t. To complain is to endorse protectionism.”

The decision comes just weeks after the Daily Mail published an investigation into the manufacturing of souvenirs for the Games. The newspaper claims that only one in 10 souvenirs for the Games are to be manufactured in Britain. More than 90 per cent of the 194 Olympic products available on the official London 2012 website are manufactured overseas, according to the report.

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