London, Asharq Al-Awsat – This week brought to an end a summer of amazing celebration in Britain.
With its sold-out venues, buzzing atmosphere and widespread media coverage, London 2012 is being described as a watershed for Paralympic sport. It has probably done more than any other event to show the public that those with disabilities are valuable members of society. Disability need not be a barrier to success. The opening ceremony was about challenging perceptions. The British theoretical physicist Professor Stephen Hawking, who has motor neurone disease, had a starring role in the Paralympics opening ceremony. He is now almost entirely paralysed and communicates through a speech generating device. Professor Hawking, the former Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge and now Director of Research at the Institute for Theoretical Cosmology at Cambridge.
Hawking said: “We live in a universe governed by rational laws that we can discover and understand. Look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Try to make sense of what you see and wonder about what makes the universe exist. Be curious.”
But what happens now to the Olympic Park?
Next week the Olympic Park will close and work will begin again. It will re-open in phases from 27th July 2013 as the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. The Park will become a natural location for businesses to set up and thrive and, as a commercial centre; the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park could not be better placed. The East End of London is a hotbed of investment and growth, and with two of the world’s commercial hubs, the City of London and Canary Wharf, just four stops away by rail and tube, the Park will become a natural location for businesses.
Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park presents a rare investment opportunity reflecting the recent trend of London moving east. A combination of open spaces, state of the art venues, a world class shopping centre and a cluster of dynamic communities will allow for the development of a new destination for business.
The area already has five world-class sports venues, with around 2,800 new homes at the Athletes Village, a premium infrastructure, world-class communications, cycle, pedestrian and road connections with newly invigorated waterways and some of the best transport links in Europe.
Right next to the park is Westfield, Europe’s largest indoor shopping centre, as well as significant residential and commercial options. It means the Olympic Park and its surrounding areas will offer some of the most significant investment opportunities in Great Britain over the coming decades.
The Olympic Park will be one of London’s most important regeneration projects over the next 25 years. At the heart of the capital’s growth this century, the Park will be a unique undertaking and a catalyst for the transformation of east London. This offers gold medal business opportunities.
The Olympic Village is to be re-named as East Village. It was developed by Triathlon Homes in an innovative joint venture company established by First Base, East Thames Group and Southern Housing Group. It has acquired 1,379 affordable, high quality homes at East Village helping to ensure a successful legacy for Stratford and the wider east London community after the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
There is already important Middle East investment here. A joint venture between Qatari Diar and Delancey will own a further 1,439 open market homes at East Village, the majority of which will be available for private rental. Qatari Diar and Delancey, and Triathlon Homes are together committed to making East Village a great place to live in the heart of east London, and helping people on a range of incomes to live in this vibrant new neighbourhood.
Many analysts expect that Stratford property investment should achieve returns higher than average returns in London. This is because prices of properties in Stratford should increase not only due to general trend of property price recovery in London, but also due to a massive transformation of Stratford into a new European business centre with exceptional international and local transport links.
There will be five new neighbourhoods built on the Park and up to 8,000 new homes; with the emphasis on family homes of three beds or more. Businesses and employees from all sectors, from start-ups to global corporations, will benefit from the vibrancy and easy accessibility of this new, forward-looking location. As Great Britain is such an easy place to do business there are many opportunities for investors and entrepreneurs from the Middle East to find opportunities in this vast new hotbed of investment and growth.
As London gets back to normal there are also a few rays of sunshine in the wider economic front. Official figures show Britain’s industrial output rose at its fastest pace for 25 years in July. The Office for National Statistics said industrial output rose by 2.9%, after dropping by 2.4% in June when output was hit by the Diamond Jubilee weekend. Manufacturing output rose by 3.2%, the fastest pace for 10 years, after falling by 2.9% in June.
Interestingly, trade union membership in Britain has fallen below six million for the first time since the 1940s. There are now 5.98 million members of TUC-affiliated unions, which is fewer than half the number just 30 years ago. Given that is it now over 20 years since Margaret Thatcher was in power and union legislation was tightened, this suggests that Britain’s skilled workforce is satisfied: another benefit for those who are looking to invest in Great Britain with its access to talented staff, high-quality products with good penetration in Britain’s export markets.
Slightly further away, the euro has strengthened to a two-month high against the US dollar, as the European Central Bank’s bond-buying plans continued to please the markets. Yields on Spanish and Italian 10-year bonds fell further, easing implied borrowing costs for the debt-laden countries. On Thursday, ECB president Mario Draghi unveiled details of a bond-buying plan aimed at easing the eurozone’s debt crisis. Under the plan, the ECB would agree to buy a potentially unlimited amount of bonds of debt-stricken eurozone members on the condition that these countries made a formal request for bailout funds and stuck to the terms of any deal.
European stock markets also rose on Friday morning after their strong rally yesterday, as optimism grew about the prospects for the eurozone economy.
And much further away at the start of an Asia-Pacific summit in the Russian port city of Vladivostok Chinese President Hu Jintao has promised to maintain economic growth to support a global recovery. All these are still green shoots but we must nurture them to slowly grow out of the global downturn.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia knows that achieving its ambitious economic goals requires a steady flow of technology and expertise into the kingdom. Therefore, its policy to welcome foreign capital and invite it to participate in economic development projects in cooperation with Saudi business can gather speed through joint ventures and investments with British business.
As Professor Hawkins wisely said at the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Paralympics, “Look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Look up at the stars and not down at your feet.”