Brazil looks to UK firms for Olympics expertise

The Brazil women's volleyball team won gold at London 2012
Image caption The London 2012 Games have been used to strengthen ties between the UK and Brazil

As the Great Britain and Brazil athletes strained their every muscle before thousands of cheering fans at the London 2012 Olympics, behind the scenes equally strenuous economic efforts were taking place.

During the 16 days of Games sporting events, business leaders and politicians from the UK and Brazil were meeting regularly to discuss how newly-gained British expertise could be transformed into sports business ties.

With Brazil hosting the 2014 football World Cup, and the 2016 Olympics being held in Rio de Janeiro, it is hoped there will be business opportunities in Rio and other parts of the country for UK firms and investors.

Sectors where UK firms could play a role cover everything from sports medicine to construction.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg says that after having helped deliver this summer's Olympics, UK firms now have "the skills and expertise to support Brazil as the baton is passed to Rio 2016".

Coming together

The UK is the fourth largest investor in Brazil, with exports "accelerating dramatically" says Mr Clegg.

British exports to the world's sixth-biggest economy grew by 23% in 2010, by a further 9% in 2011, and by 13% in the first quarter of 2012 compared to the same period in the previous year.

Image caption Casa Brazil in central London was a business hub during the Olympics

During the Games, Brazil had representatives from 24 industries and services in the UK - including from the security, health, and aviation sectors among others.

And Casa Brazil, or Brazil House, was set up in central London to bring together UK and Brazilian officials and business leaders.

"It is of course sport, and the business of sport, that is doing the most to bring the two countries together," says UK Sports Minister Hugh Robertson.

And with Brazil hosting the world's biggest two global sporting events in a two-year period from 2014 and 2016, he says UK business is ready "to help in any way".

As well as a wealth of sports design and engineering experience, Mr Robertson says the UK can also assist Brazil in areas such as sports marketing and creative services.

The UK has also been playing host to Brazilian delegations over the past year, to look not only at the progress of the Olympic Park but also to discuss issues of regeneration, housing, jobs and skills.

"We are familiar with the challenges now facing Brazil," the sports minister added. "We believe we have the expertise to help make Brazil's events a huge success.

"I very much hope that British business can work with Rio to make the next games more successful than this one."

As part of its hosting of the 2016 Games, and also games in the 2014 World Cup, Rio is embarking on a major infrastructure and economic expansion.

"The city will boom, through major initiatives, such as massive investment in infrastructure, huge oil and gas discoveries, and the growth of the middle class market," says Marcelo Haddad, executive director at Rio Negocios, the investment promotion agency for the city.

"We have the markets and the talent, infrastructure and an agenda."

He said sports-related markets that foreign firms could benefit were with new research labs, sportswear and equipment, hospitality, stadium management, promotion, and audio-visual facilities.

"Sport is one of the most appealing economic drivers for Rio," says Mr Haddad.

"And the business of sport is one of the new frontiers, and legacies, that Brazil has an opportunities to develop."

Mutual benefits

As part of its drive to capitalise on the 2012 Games, UK Trade and Investment - the government department that helps British firms be competitive on the world stage - is to open a British Business Embassy during the 2016 Olympics.

The embassy will showcase the best of what the UK has to offer from its most successful industries.

Image caption The Olympic focus is now on Rio de Janeiro

The UKTI believes firms can make inroads in Brazil in the fields of advanced engineering, life sciences, energy, financial services, mass transport, construction, and agri-technology, and global sporting events.

Already Aecom UK has won an international competition to design the 2016 Olympic Park Master Plan.

And the UK International Property Office is to appoint an attache to Brazil to support UK firms doing business in the country.

Brazil's sports minister Aldo Rebelo says the 2014 and 2016 events are a great opportunity to develop Brazil's economy even further.

And the World Cup and Olympics should also, he says, create a stronger relationship between Brazil and the UK, and their "sports industries and business, for the benefit of both Brazil and the UK".

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