Russia offers sporting gold for UK firms

Russian forward Alexander Kerzhakov
Image caption Russia will stage the football World Cup in 2018

Russia will host some of the biggest sporting events in the world in the next few years.

The list includes the 2018 football World Cup and the 2014 Winter Olympic Games.

The investment planned for these sporting events is huge, with UK trade experts estimating the World Cup to be worth £35bn and the Sochi Winter Olympics £20bn.

And British firms should be handily placed after delivering the London 2012 Olympic Games to provide the expertise needed to host these major sporting contests.

"The great thing we have in this country is that we are the repository of how to do it, and how to make it work," says UK Sport Minister Hugh Robertson.

"I'm very much hoping that we will build on that and enable British business to help others staging major sports events."

Range of opportunities

Both of the two Russian headline events, the World Cup and Winter Olympics - as well as other sporting tournaments - will need new stadiums and associated infrastructure.

Image caption The Olympic baton has passed to Russia for the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi

Business opportunities for UK firms around these events could include sectors such as architecture, engineering, construction management, transport, security, environmental planning, power engineering and sports venue "fitting out" - providing plant and equipment, seating, surfacing, lighting and IT.

At the latter stages of event preparation there are further opportunities - things such as security, recruitment, volunteering programmes, training, broadcasting, event management, media signage, ticketing, screens, temporary overlay, crowd control, transportation and branding.

And finally, during the actual events there will also be openings in hospitality and catering.

Hard lobbying

"The opportunities in Russia over the next decade are huge," says Damion Potter, head of the commercial team at the British embassy in Moscow.

"The quality, reliability, experience and innovative way that UK companies work in sport business means they are well-placed, especially following the success of London 2012.

"But we are not the only players in town - the Germans, French, US and others are also lobbying hard."

The World Cup in 2018 provides opportunities not only in one geographic region, but across the country, with a dozen or so cities hosting the football tournament.

Hosting Fifa's showpiece event means transport links in Russia will need to be upgraded, including doubling the capacity at Moscow's three airports, as well as major improvements to transport in Moscow and St Petersburg.

Thousands of kilometres of new roads and rail are required as well as high-speed rail links between the host cities, which will be announced later this month.

Meanwhile, the Russian government also plans to invest £6.5bn to develop its tourism infrastructure and to create 19,000 additional hotel rooms.

Creating a masterplan

Four years before the World Cup is the 2014 Winter Olympics, and one UK-based firm - architect Populous - is already helping the Russians prepare.

Populous designed the London 2012 Olympic Stadium, and was also involved in the creation of the London Games masterplan - which looked at wider issues such as venue locations, urban regeneration, accessibility and transport links.

"At Sochi we have been able to take part in the same process, working with them on their [hosting] bid, working with them on their masterplan," says Tom Jones, principal at Populous.

"It is the first time that a Winter Olympics has had an Olympic Park, in the way that a summer Games would.

"Sochi is a development on the London model - a cluster of stadiums around a park and a mixed-use complex, including residential use."

Populous has designed the impressive Fisht main stadium in the Sochi Olympic Park, which will be the focus of the Games from 7-23 February 2014.

Image caption The distinctive Fisht stadium will be the centrepiece of the Games park

Mr Jones says the stadium will have a 30,000 capacity for the 2014 opening ceremony, which can then expand to 45,000 for the 2018 World Cup.

The capacity will finally be reduced to 25,000 when the stadium becomes the home venue for a local football team.

Populous has also designed the new sports stadium for the Russian city of Kazan, which is hosting the 2013 Summer Universiade, also known as the World Student Games.

And it has worked on the masterplan for the renovation of the Luzhniki stadium in Moscow, which will host the 2018 World Cup final

"We are actively pursuing opportunities with regard to other stadia in Russia," adds Mr Jones.

Trade missions

More than 50 UK companies already doing business in Sochi - from infrastructure to services, but there are challenges.

Corruption is a big issue in the construction, infrastructure, and other industries.

Image caption A dozen or so Russian cities will host 2018 World Cup games

Logistics provides a further challenge, while Russia is placed far down the rankings in a list of the countries where it is easiest to do business.

That World Bank listing has Russia at 120: however, emerging economies Brazil and India are ranked at 126 and 132 respectively.

Over the past year there have been a number of top-level trade missions, in both directions, between the UK and Russia, involving major business people and politicians including Prime Minister David Cameron.

More are planned, with a major UK trade mission to Russia this autumn, led by Lord Green, that will be looking to discuss how British firms can help Russia prepare for the 2018 World Cup.

And the British embassy's Mr Potter is in no doubt about the "high-value opportunity" around the tournament.

"By working with Russian partners, we will help UK companies come out of the blocks fast when the final decision on World Cup host cities is taken."

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