Bid Wars: The Bids within the Bid

Photo credit to Construction International:


As the complexity of the Olympics and Paralympics has increased, the IOC bid process to host the Games has also intensified. Since 1999, cities bidding for the Olympics and Paralympics have been required to go through two bid phases. These candidature applications demand that cities seeking to host the Games describe thorough and feasible plans for the Olympics.

Keeping in stride with the dynamic nature of the Games as well as the intricate bid process, another variety of bid has come to be: corporate bids for Olympics-related projects. A city’s decision to bid for the Games is intrinsically related to the private sector’s desire to tap into “big business” opportunities. Companies are involved from the onset in many capacities and as early as pre-bid phases. Companies interested in securing contracts related to the Games—contracts that focus on anything ranging from infrastructure construction to marketing and branding to hospitality services—must also develop a strategy to win “their piece of the pie.”

Corporate entities may “bid” to become directly involved in the Games even before host city decisions or Organizing Committees of the Olympics Games (OCOG’s) have been made. For instance, Helios Partners is an Atlanta-based sports marketing consultancy created and managed by former leaders of the 1996 Olympics committee. This company seeks to “clinch” contracts with cities bidding to host the Olympics and Paralympics. For London, Helios was selected to develop promotional messages for Lloyd’s TSB, the first London-specific Olympic sponsor, and Deloitte, the American professional services firm, long before the 2012 Games took place. And the official sponsor company selection process is another huge episode in itself!

Once the IOC announces a host city winner—seven years in advance of the Games—the OCOG’s are created. Generally, these committees work with the host government to hire corporate contractors for large-scale Olympics projects. Much of this “legwork” is related to urban development, engineering, and transportation-related construction.

According to a quote by David Higgins (Chief Executive of the Olympic Delivery Authority) in  CH2M HILL’s 2006 report regarding the firm’s London 2012 construction contract:

“This is a first class shortlist from a very strong field. We will continue the rigorous scrutiny of applications as we now move to the next stage. I am confident that the competitive dialogue procurement process will help ensure we make the right appointment for this critical role.”

The Olympic Delivery Authority from the London Games adheres to new European procurement laws that require “competitive dialogue” with first and a “short” listing stages of corporate contractors. Sound familiar? The IOC short-lists cities bidding for the Games too!

As the world’s premier and most wide-scale mega-event, the Olympics has rising implications for every sector and stakeholder of a city and region. While the companies winning the “bid” contract may experience benefits, it is unclear and debated as to whether all stakeholders benefit—particularly the residents.

Depending on their degree of success, though, these private firm contractors can ideally support a strong Games and contribute to a positive legacy. In theory, the benefits reaped by these corporations can also help trigger economic growth in the host region.

For an interactive grid in The Financial Times, please visit:

FT Olympics Article




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