Good Week for the Olympics (But Not For Everyone There)
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London Olympics are in full swing, and so far it's been a tremendous success. I thought the opening ceremony was absolutely breathtaking - it was creative, ambitious, beautiful and yet so different from everything else we've seen. After Beijing, most people said it would be difficult to surpass the sheer scale and grandeur of that opening ceremony. London organisers knew it and so they didn't even try it, starting instead with peaceful images of rural England and running through the rich history of Britain, from industrial to digital revolution. There were plenty of worries before the Games that the infrastructure (e.g. transport system, security) would struggle to cope with the influx of athletes, spectators and officials. Many firms asked their employees to work from home (most of us at Celent already do anyway). However, the concerns so far proved to be overestimated and London has been running smoothly. The sport itself continues to thrill, offering a full scale of emotions from pride and joy for the medal winners to drama (e.g. competitors "ganging up" against Mark Cavendish, a favourite to win a cycling race) to shame (e.g. badminton players getting disqualified for deliberately losing matches). It's also inspiring a new generation of future athletes - my own children (almost 5yrs and 2.5yrs) are wowed by almost everything they've seen on TV, from the equestrian events to diving, swimming and basketball. I also heard a kid on the radio saying that he would like to compete in the future Olympic cycling, "you know, the one with bikes, not the one where you sort out the rubbish into different bins", he added helpfully :) However, not everyone associated with the Olympics enjoyed the last week. The decision to make Visa the only accepted payments brand at the Olympics, continued to attract criticism. The Times, one of the largest newspapers wrote: "The sponsors, of course, are highly visible in the park and the one that emerges as early favourite for the gold medal in mean-spirited pettiness is the payments company Visa. Every commercial outlet and even every cash dispenser bears a sign saying it is "proud to accept only Visa". They may be proud; everyone else will be annoyed." That decision was really put to test when card payments failed at one of the events at a Wembley stadium and people could only pay cash (so much for the "cashless Olympics"!) It doesn't necessarily mean that the failure had anything to do with the Visa network; in fact, Visa blamed "Wembley management", but the incident clearly did not help the Visa's brand. There were more bad news from Visa in Europe, when the EC commission had another go at Visa Europe and its credit card interchange fees. Encouraged by the court's recent decision over MasterCard's fees, the EC clearly feels the time is right to re-open its ongoing battle with Visa. At Celent we have long questioned the wisdom of regulators to keep pushing against the interchange fees in various markets. It looks like the lawyers and lobbyists at the schemes will continue to be busy.