UK wants Games to boost image after riots

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain aims to dispel the negative images beamed around the globe during last month's riots by launching a business and tourist promotion centered around the 2012 London Olympics, a minister said on Wednesday.

The GREAT campaign will flag up Britain as a place to visit and do business, with the aim of attracting an extra billion pounds of inward investment and trade over the next year, giving a lift to an economy that has barely grown during the past year.

"It is not about rebranding Britain, we have one of the strongest brands in the world," Jeremy Hunt, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, told reporters.

"It is about using that brand to create more exports, more inward investment, more trade, more foreign tourists and also to make sure that we can put the record straight after some of the terrible events that happened this summer, which created a negative image," he added.

"It's based on something that isn't new - the idea of putting great back into Britain is something that has been around for a very long time, but we think this is the moment to use it next year."

But an economist suggested a billion pounds was a tiny amount in terms of the overall economy.

"When GDP is in the trillions, a billion is not a great deal," said Scott Corfe, economist at the Center for Economics and Business Research.

In 2009, foreign companies invested 46 billion pounds in the UK, a decrease of 3.2 billion pounds from the previous year and the smallest flow of inward direct investment since 2004, figures from the Office for National Statistics showed.

The government said the bulk of the billion pounds is expected to come from exports.

The billion pounds will go some way to delivering a return on the 9.3 billion pounds it will cost to stage the Games.

The government, backed by the Foreign Office and UK Trade and Investment, will host a global investment conference in London on the eve of the Olympics and set up a British business embassy to showcase the country's innovations, creativity and entrepreneurship.

Politicians also hope the Olympics and Queen Elizabeth's Diamond Jubilee next year, to mark 60 years of her reign, will boost tourism, attracting an additional four million visitors, aided by a further billion pounds of free publicity.

"We are determined to make the most of this unprecedented opportunity to ensure we deliver a lasting economic legacy that will benefit the whole country," Prime Minister David Cameron said in New York, where he is attending the United Nation's General Assembly.

The campaign comes at a time when a cash-strapped Conservative-led coalition government looks to the private sector to boost growth, as it embarks on an austerity package to eliminate a record budget deficit.

The country also has to overcome the damage to its image caused by this summer's riots in which cars and buildings were burned and shops looted in London and other English cities.

Hunt said there had been no noticeable impact on visitor numbers from the riots.

(Reporting by Avril Ormsby; editing by Keith Weir)