Will the 2012 Olympics really cheer printers?

Josh Brooks
Wednesday, September 26, 2007

As a journalist, even one writing about the print industry, its hard to ignore anything that has even the smallest link to three little words: London, 2012 and Olympics. The same, it seems, applies for printers. As we report this week, interest in the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) tender for print work has been so huge that the ODA has put off an early stage of the tender by more than a month.

Two issues arise. First is whether the Olympics is really much of a boon for the industry. Clearly, printers (like contractors in every sector) are desperate to be able to say that they played their part in the greatest show on earth. It’s great kudos. But the quantity of work in this tender is relatively small – it’s estimated at somewhere between £1m and £2m. Is it really worth the clamour?

The second issue involves SMEs. The Olympic Delivery Authority has indicated its support for smaller firms getting involved. But printers I have spoken to recently have expressed real concerns over public sector tendering generally (not specifically related to the ODA, I hasten to add) and its sometimes horrific complexity.

One contact recently told me that he had spent a week, and his marketing director three weeks, completing a pre-qualification questionnaire for a public tender which demanded policy statements on more than 30 areas of business. No SME in the country has the resources to even get past the first hurdle of a tender if these are the demands.

A cynic would say that this is a case of procurement officers justifying their own existence. But if public sector tenders are to be truly open to all, they must be simplified.

And if you’re hoping to get work out of the Olympics, go for it – but watch out for bigger tenders coming from the ODA’s major contractors, especially the builders. For our industry, those deals will bring real gold. 
Josh Brooks is deputy editor of PrintWeek.

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