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In its 23-year history, the Catey Special Award has never been awarded to anyone beyond the hospitality industry sphere.
This year, however, the nominators of Caterer‘s premier award - the readers of Caterer and the members of the 16 Catey judging panels - and the judges felt that they could not overlook the unique efforts of one particular man: Lord Sebastian Coe, chairman of the London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (LOCOG).
While an army of talented people were involved in putting together Britain's Olympic bid, operators across the industry believe that if it wasn't for the charismatic leadership of Lord Coe unifying the general public and a broad spectrum of industries, London simply wouldn't have won.
London's tourism industry will be one of the greatest beneficiaries of LOCOG's success. But the nation's broader hospitality will no doubt gain too as visitors flood in to the UK in the run-up to the event, during the games themselves and afterwards. A Government-commissioned report has already predicted that the UK would benefit from more than £500m of added tourism revenue as a result of the 2012 Olympics.
Hotelier Jonathan Raggett, chief executive of Red Carnation Hotels, best summed up the potential of an Olympic legacy when he wrote in Caterer last year: "For all its faults, and we know what these are, London rightly remains one of the world's prime destinations. The sort of improvements Athens achieved, especially in such areas as transport and general ‘face-lifting', would almost guarantee that visitors who enjoy what London already has to offer would leave with an even greater desire to return.
"With the massive influx of opinion-formers who are bound to arrive to cover the games, this is critical to London's continued economic health in the years and decades following the games. The victory for Lord Coe and his team is obviously a massive boost for London and the UK as a whole."
Speaking at the annual Arena Lecture in London's Savoy hotel earlier this year, Lord Coe was quick to credit the hospitality's role in his and LOCOG's success. He maintained that the industry's support early on in the bid process had been vital at a time when many believed London couldn't win the event. "I hope we can keep the partnership going," he commented. "We need to make sure the hospitality industry is involved at all levels so that every tourist goes home and talks of the great experience they had."
Lord Coe, who was awarded the title of Greatest Briton of 2005 by the Daily Telegraph and the Commission for Racial Equality, echoed his views on teamwork and partnerships while addressing the English Institute of Sport recently. "The London 2012 team did not win the Games in isolation. It was won by a sense of common purpose, of everyone working together for the ultimate prize."
For all his modesty, many in the industry, however, believe that without Lord Coe's steely determination, London clearly
would not have triumphed - and the icing on the cake, we simultaneously trounced Paris too!
Nominations for the Special Award were compiled from recommendations from Caterer readers and from suggestions from each of the 16 Catey judging panels. The judging panel was made up of senior members of the Caterer and Hotelkeeper editorial team.