Budget savings won’t affect Games, says minister

Sports minister Hugh Robertson speaks to Athletics Weekly with just two weeks to go until the opening ceremony

Posted on July 11, 2012 by
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Hugh Robertson and Victoria Pendleton

Following recent news that the London 2012 Games is £476 million under-budget, sports minister Hugh Robertson has insisted the savings will not affect the event’s success.

In an interview with Athletics Weekly, the Conservative MP said most of the remaining finances will be used to cover last-minute unforeseen issues and that LOCOG were currently working to ensure London 2012 is a “great” rather than “good” Games.

“I’m confident we’ve done everything we ought to have done,” he said, responding to suggestions that short-cuts may have been taken in bringing about the cost reductions.

“Our last report said we were £476m under the budget. That doesn’t mean that after the Games we’ll still have £476m left. There are bound to be last minute-hitches and problems.

“We’re dealing with quite a lot of problems at the moment that are about managing the success of it. We’ve had far greater crowds turning up for the torch, far greater numbers of people applying for tickets, far more volunteers, than I think ever we’d hoped for in our wildest dreams, so that means we’re doing quite a lot of work on what happens if we get more people in central London than we planned.

“So we won’t have a £476m saving come September. I suspect that will have down a bit, but we will still deliver substantially under budget.”

The £2.4b budget initially set was increased to £9.3b in 2007. Among the savings made since then has been installing a roof over only a small part of the seating at the Olympic Stadium, which has looked a particularly questionable measure given that the summer’s poor weather in Britain is forecasted to last throughout the Games.

However, the weather aside, Mr Robertson is confident London 2012 would be a huge success based on the work done up to now.

He said: “I think one of the best characterisations of where we are was provided not by anyone in this country, but by the IOC Co-ordination Commission when it made its final visit in March and they said then that London had achieved miracles to get to where it was at the end of March and that there’s no doubt that London would deliver a good Games.

“The next three months were then going to determine whether we could deliver a great Games, whether could do all those little things that turn a good Games into a great Games, and so everything that we’ve been doing over the last three and a half months has been about refining, testing and turning everything over to try and give ourselves the bet chance of delivering a great Games.

“To that extent I’m as confident as I can be two weeks out that we’ve done everything I possibly can do to deliver a great Games.”

If it is to be a “great Games”, then the quality of the venues and their cost will be a huge factor in that, said the minister for Faversham and Mid Kent.

He said the biggest triumph of London would be “to deliver the Olympic Park on time and under-budget and that’s not often been done.”

He added: “That is a stand-out achievement. What we have built at Stratford and other places is not only impressive in terms of building it on time and under-budget but also in terms of the quality.”

He also said felt the athletics venue itself played a key part in London’s gaining the right to host the 2017 IAAF World Athletics Championships.

“The stadium has this wonderful coliseum feel,” he said. “It was very interesting taking members of the IAAF around it when we were doing the World Athletics Championships bid last year. They took a step back and said ‘wow’ and it has that effect on people. I’m sure played a great part in enabling us to win the 2017 World Championships.”

» Read more from this interview, including Mr Robertson’s response on the criticised ticketing strategy and whether athletics funding should be so dependent on medals, in Athletics Weekly – out July 12.

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