While the athletes get all the glory, the unsung heroes of the London Olympics are the Australian businesses that have helped put the games on.
London 2012 may have had a silver lining for Australia’s athletes, but it was gold, gold, gold for the Australian businesses involved in everything from lighting the Olympic flame to cleaning up the swimming course for the triathlon.
In fact, there’s probably more Australian influence in the London Olympics than the British might like to admit.
Here’s SmartCompany’s pick of the top 11 Aussie SMEs who helped make London 2012 a success.
1. FCT Flames lit the Olympic flame
A small business from South Australia was behind the successful lighting of the Olympic cauldron at the opening ceremony of the London Games.
FCT Flames, which specialises in the design and manufacture of flame effects for ceremonial and sporting events, supplied the gas burning system used to ignite the 204 individual copper “petals” before the burner “stems” came together to form one giant flame during the ceremony.
FCT Flames acting managing director David Rapson told SmartCompany the business built on its history of supplying the flame for previous Games, including Sydney in 2000 and Athens in 2004.
“We started off doing industrial combustion and then the progression was to go to ceremonial flames, which includes large outdoor sporting events,” Rapson says.
Rapson was unable to give more detail about FT Flames’ contract with the London Olympics due to confidentiality agreements or reveal how much the contract is worth.
2. Ramler Furniture furnishes the Olympic village and venues
Ramler Furniture, based in the Melbourne suburb of Cheltenham, supplied furniture for the Olympic village and venues, which involved fitting out 18,000 bedrooms.
Ramler Furniture sourced over one million items including mattresses, safes, and diving umpire chairs for the Games.
Ramler Furniture managing director Garry Ramler says the business had to set up an office in London with nine staff members in order to fulfil the contract.
“We did the Sydney Games and we did work in Athens, so it was a natural progression that we were going to bid for the Olympics. We gave a compelling bid, as we had a proven track record,” says Ramler.
Ramler Furniture is responsible for the complete process chain; from designing to procuring, shipping through to installation, maintenance, retrieval and even disposal once the Olympics are over.
The company has even established a website called Remains of the Games, which will sell furniture used at the Games to souvenir hunters seeking a piece of sporting history.
“All we have to do now is learn Portuguese to repeat the exercise in Brazil. London was easy from that point of view because there were no language issues,” Ramler says.
3. GFORCE TV filmed the games from the watery depths
The aquatic events at London 2012 have been covered from both above and below the water by a host of mini-cameras from Australian company GFORCE TV.
“We have a camera called a Polecam that reaches over the top at the turn end and shows the leading swimmer as they’re coming in for a tumble turn, and it’s only a few centimetres away from their body,” GFORCE TV director Greg Clarke says.
There are also extreme slow motion cameras that can run at up to 2,000 frames per second, not to mention the DiveCam, which is perched up against the 10-metre dive tower and drops with the divers as they plunge into the pool.
“The guts of my business is to source the best television professionals from Australia. We take them overseas to show the world what we can do,” says Clarke.
GFORCE TV used specialty underwater cameras and 130 crew in London.
4. BartCo kept the traffic flowing
Brothers Trevor and Troy Wollard’s traffic management business scored a $2 million contract to deliver traffic management signs for the London Olympics.
Trevor Wollard told SmartCompany the contract was for a new type of sign which went beyond the traditional yellow and amber colours in LED and used solar power.
“We did a [trade] show in Amsterdam about two years ago, where we met up with a potential distributor in the UK who we started a relationship with,” he says.
The distributor helped introduce BartCo in the UK through hire and sales. The company secured some high profile customers and soon made contact with transport authorities.
“We knew they were going to need a transport solution for the Olympics, and they started using our product because of the colour tech we had,” Wollard says.
“So they used it for some Olympic trial events, about six months ago, and they invited us to apply for the tender to supply 20 signs.”
In the end, the deal was for 200 signs to be built in a time frame that was “so extenuating it isn’t funny”, but Wollard says the Olympics contract has been a great experience for Bart Co.
“I think it just cements us as being the world’s biggest provider of this type of product. It increases our exposure to an additional customer base, and the greater international community.
5. Phoslock Water Solutions cleaned up London’s Serpentine lake for the triathlon
The Serpentine lake in the middle of London’s Hyde Park was not looking exactly sparkling when it was named as the venue for the swim leg of the Olympic triathlon.
Jogging around the lake last year, Phoslock chairman Laurence Freedman immediately thought that Phoslock, a product invented by the CSIRO and with properties that permanently absorb phosphorous, could clean the lake up.
“Laurence actually sent me some photos from the site and said ‘This looks terrible, I can’t believe they are hosting the triathlon’,” Phoslock managing director Robert Schuitema told SmartCompany.
“This lake has been on our radar for a while and the fact that they are hosting the Olympics meant they needed to show the water body in its best condition,” he says.
“Last summer the lake looked pretty average and certainly not in a great condition to host an Olympic event.
“We applied Phoslock in February and March and now it’s looking great.
“I think the Royal Parks have had additional grant money to make sure the parks and water bodies were able to go ahead with the contract.”
Schuitema would not reveal the size of the contract but says it was “a large application by our standard”.