Olympics

By Timothy Ash of Standard Bank

Vladimir Putin has been acclaimed by many as the man of 2013. He outmanoeuvred the west first on Syria and then on Ukraine. He has tried to show a softer side with recent high-profile pardons, from Khodorkovsky to Pussy Riot and Greenpeace campaigners. Now momentum is building up to the Sochi Winter Olympics, which will be presented as a show case for Russia and the Putin regime.

It will be interesting to see if he remains at his peak in 2014, post-Sochi. 

Lee Myung-bak’s approval ratings remain painfully low as he prepares to step down as South Korean president next month. But he might hope for a belated popularity boost in 2018 when his country hosts the Winter Olympics – one of a series of major international events that South Korea won during his term.

The past week has given an early taste of the festival that awaits in five years’ time, as the South Korean ski resort of Pyeongchang hosted the Special Olympics World Games. 

Coming soon: sportswear for dogs

X5, the Russian food retailer controlled by Mikhail Fridman’s Alfa Group, has won a tender for rights to market official merchandise for the 2014 Sochi Winter Games.

The prestigious deal may boost the appeal of X5’s grocery stores but probably comes too late to prevent the London-listed retailer from being overtaken by its fast growing rival Magnit in the battle for sales. 

Russia’s 129 Olympic medallists are being showered with gifts. The most exciting is probably a luxury Audi, courtesy of a group of wealthy businessmen. The most useful? The chance of a job at Sberbank, Russia’s biggest bank. 

Eduardo Paes, mayor of Rio de Janeiro – the host city for the 2016 games – talks to the FT’s Seb Morton-Clark about the challenges ahead and what the Brazilians have been learning from the UK’s experience.

Indian is consistently among the worst-performing nations at the Olympics, but its athletes have performed well in London and return home triumphant with their country’s its best-ever medal haul – four bronzes and two silvers.

Like other returning Olympians they will be feted. Unlike their rivals in most other countries, Indian Olympians have long looked forward to returning to comfortable government jobs. But this year, ministers have come up with something a bit more appropriate. 

Kenya will bid to become the first African nation to host the Olympic Games in 2024, Raila Odinga, the country’s prime minister, has said.

Speaking to the FT in London, Mr Odinga said sub-Saharan Africa’s time to host the games had come. The region’s trillion-dollar economy was set to boom over the next decade, he said, and for Kenya, east Africa’s leading economy, hosting the Olympics would bring a psychological boost as well as “enormous benefits” in terms of investment in infrastructure.

Acer is an official sponsor of the Olympic Games. It provides the computers and servers that back up the whole operation and its advertising proudly features the coveted and heavily trademarked Olympic rings.

But what does the Olympic movement think of Acer’s home country, Taiwan? According to the International Olympic Committee, it doesn’t really exist. 

You may not have noticed, but the London 2012 Olympics have begun.

So this week, chart of the week looks at the EM stars – which countries out-performed at Beijing, and which should be ones to watch in London? 

As anyone in London will know by now, hosting a major sporting events is about more than just the sport. It’s also about making lots of money and the main contest is attracting investment.

A report this week from Grant Thornton, a corporate finance consultancy, suggests emerging market hosts rate their chances of cashing in from big events more highly than their peers in developed markets. 

Lakshmi Mittal and Anish Kapoor with Kapoor’s design for the ArcelorMittal Orbit

As discussed in Wednesday’s FT Notebook, India has a uniquely dreadful Olympic record, consistently earning an unwelcome title as the world’s worst performer at the games and frequently returning empty handed. But this time things might be different – and if they are, some of the nation’s most recognisable corporate titans can take a least some of the credit. 

G4S took a heavy blow in the UK this week, losing a £50m contract following its botching of Olympic security. With its reputation tarnished, worse may follow. However, even in the unlikely event that the UK government restricts the firm’s access to its proliferating outsourcing opportunities, G4S is much more than a UK company. 

After the games, it doesn't always go cold

London 2012 is a matter of days away. High time for economists to get in on the act.

On Wednesday Goldman Sachs released a 40-page report, The Olympics and Economics 2012, with some interesting insights into the sporting and stock performance of emerging economies.

Of immediate interest to investors will be Goldman’s analysis of Olympics and stock markets. Are there returns to be made? 

Here's what you could win

Malaysia’s Olympic badminton players will no doubt be digging deep into mental and physical reserves to win medals at the London Olympics.

But they now have an added incentive: the chief executive of a Malaysian gold mining company is offering the country’s badminton team a gold bar worth M$2m ($630,000) if they can bring home the country’s first gold medal from the games. 

The collapse of three buildings in the centre of Rio de Janeiro on Wednesday night – leaving at least 19 people missing – raises fresh questions about the city’s infrastructure as it prepares to co-host the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympic Games.

It should also give pause to those who say Brazil’s recent rise to prosperity has allowed it to leave behind its “emerging market” status. No matter how much has been achieved and no matter how great Brazil’s potential, it must still deal with a heavy legacy of the past.