02 August 2012
"Where were the Germans... and frankly, who cares?"
The question was famously asked by veteran sports commentator Barry Davies as Great Britain beat their old rivals in the men's hockey final at the Seoul Olympics. A slightly irreverent remark, maybe, but a memorable off-the-cuff observation of pure broadcasting genius which, 24 years on, still ranks in The Times' top 25 greatest-ever commentary moments.
As we approach the half-way point of the 2012 Olympics another question is on many people's lips, particularly retailers with businesses in London well away from the Olympic Park in Stratford - "Where have all the customers gone?"
According to shop owners and restaurateurs in other areas of the city, it's not just stadium seats that are empty at London 2012. Retailers are complaining that sales are well down because tourists and local customers have abandoned the busiest areas, including the normally bustling West End.
The Association of Leading Visitor Attractions reports that the number of people visiting flagship venues in London fell by 30-35 per cent in the final days before the Olympics. During this first week some parts of the city have been quieter than anyone can remember. Shop owners and market traders are worried that declining trade could put their businesses at risk.
The Association blames the absence of paying customers on 'Olympic tourists', who apparently have a restricted itinerary on holiday, and on Londoners themselves who have been put off or, at least, seem less inclined to venture into many of the normally busy areas.
Research group Experian reports that the number of people visiting shops elsewhere in London before the opening ceremony was 10 per cent down on a year ago - the following day the figure had risen to almost 12 per cent.
So what should we make of all this? Perhaps it's just that people would rather enjoy the Olympic experience from the comfort of their own homes rather than venture anywhere near a 2012 sporting venue. Or perhaps drivers don't fancy the extra hassle - or cost - of battling across the city while everything stops, literally, to smooth the way for Olympic-related traffic.
For marketers, none of this should be a surprise. Like new drivers are advised when they throw away their 'L' plates, we should always expect the unexpected. Having Plan B or even a Plan C are helpful contingencies when things don't quite work out the way they were expected.
And sacrificing principles and sound business ethics in pursuit of short-term gain - cashing in on the Olympics bandwagon, for instance - is likely to end in long-term pain, as some of London's greedier hoteliers have discovered. They've found that bumping up their prices by astronomic proportions wasn't such a good marketing strategy after all.
Many hotels are only half full at a time when they would normally be packed to the rafters while some of the most unfortunate opportunists are reporting their lowest room occupancy levels for 30 years.
When the final medal has been won, the streets have been reclaimed and 2012 Games' tourists have all returned home - wherever that may be - let's hope that life in London and elsewhere picks up again to something resembling normality. Let's hope too that hoteliers, restaurateurs, stores and the traditional tourist attractions have half-decent post-Olympic marcomms plans in place to help them to build up their numbers again.