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Tough timing over rise in Olympic costs

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Roger Mosey | 08:01 UK time, Monday, 12 December 2011

There was once a golden political scenario that featured the London Olympics.

It was that an incoming government in 2010 would have to launch a period of austerity, since all the main political parties accepted the need for spending cuts.

But by 2012 the pain would be starting to ease because growth would be powering away again, and some politicians believed the year in front of us could represent a turnaround in national morale - alongside a much rosier view of our economic prospects.

The latter thought seems to be disappearing rapidly. While the Eurozone crisis continues to simmer, the predictions for the British economy suggest we have a chance of being in recession again for a period of 2012.

Today's report by Standard Chartered Bank says the UK economy could contract by 1.3% next year - when it was only March this year that the official government forecast was +2.5%.

There could hardly be a more uncertain macro-economic backdrop for these Games - and they will take place with many people in the UK worried about their jobs and the prospects for their families.

That's why it must have been tough timing for the government and the organisers to announce last week that bills for the ceremonies and security were going up.

As a BBC employee, I have no public view on matters of political debate - but let me add a couple of thoughts for background.

The first is that many people with expertise in ceremonies always thought the budget of £40m for four events (Olympics opening/closing and Paralympics opening/closing) as they were imagined was impossible.

Sure, you can have the athletes marching in to the stadium for very little cost. Maybe the UK should have contemplated that. But if you want the opening ceremony in particular to be a showcase for the UK - and we can imagine the storm if it's panned as a rubbish performance - then money has to be allocated.

The Olympic Stadium and the ArcelorMittal Orbit sculpture at the Olympic Park. Photo credit: Rebecca Naden/PA Wire<br />

All eyes will be on the Olympic Stadium during the opening and closing ceremonies.

The second is the wider point that every major political party in the UK is committed to these Olympics, and nobody is seriously suggesting they should be called off because of our economic difficulties.

In that context, there can be no compromise on the Games being delivered competently - which means proper logistics, security and sport competition. It would be a brave organising committee or politician who made the cut that was later alleged to have allowed protesters to run riot in the Olympic Park.

None of this is an argument for extravagance, and some of the bills still make the eyes water - while there are obvious risks about the level of facilities being provided for officials and international VIPs.

This is not the moment to be waving a bottle of champagne from an exclusive balcony viewing area.

But in these tough times, the opportunity still exists in 2012 to see ourselves in a better light as a country - hosting the biggest sporting event in the world and using it to showcase the people of these islands and to seek a legacy for them.

The climate is chillier than anyone imagined, but there's little choice other than carrying on and doing our best; and for most people, a 2012 with the Olympics in London is still a better prospect than one without.


  • Comment number 1.

    The organisers are damned if they do and damned if they don't re trying to get the right balance for the opening ceremony. I am for the extra £40m.I just hope we keep it relatively simple and play to our strengths.

    Many of my friends were very worried when they watched the year to go show from trafalgar square.

  • Comment number 2.

    The extra £40m is in real terms, neither here nor there, but I for one would like to see whoever planned and bugeted the whole games suitably punished for the lies told about the actual cost of the whole extravaganza and the out and out poor planning and general waste.

    Someone decided to build a beautiful stadium costing half a billion pounds, but this was designed with zero suitability for any other sports after the games finished, they also decided to spend hundreds more millions of pounds on other arenas that will be dismantled after the games, including a hockey park that is actually a useful size for other sports, but most of that will disappear as soon as the games finish.

    I've no doubt the games will be a great success and a spectacle that will live long in the memories of most of us, but that still doesn't excuse the blatant profligacy that has mired the whole process of bringing the games to fruition, but as per most things that occur in Britain, those who wasted the most will get away scot free leaving the bills to the rest of society.

  • Comment number 3.

    Why waste so much money on these outdated concepts. Just plain stupid !! Thinking back now to when it was announced in Singapore that we have secured not only the honour of staging but also of paying for the privilege of having the 2012 Olympiads in London, its just mind-bogglingly stupid. There they were jumping up and down with euphoria as if the had won the jackpot; little did they realise the monstrous costs it would turn out to be.

    Athletics Grand Prix is staged non-stop year after year, so why this extravagance of wasting vast sums of money on Olympics, its outdated and boring. I wouldn't attend it if the free tickets were still available. I'd rather watch the paint dry.

    Who was the smart Rs who hired an American woman to be head of the Olympic Committee?. . .Barbara whatshername?. . .she soon realised she out of her depth and did the decent thing and resigned after being paid off handsomely. . . .why this obssession with everything American?? Remember Ken Livingstone?. . .he too hired an expensive Yank, well past his sell-by date to head the updating of the Tube system. He did nothing as well, only worked a few hours a week, paid £24m and lived free in a large London house. . . boy, our stupidity is just mind-boggling !!

    So, standby for more stupid schemes in the New Year. . . you ain't seen nuffink yet !!

  • Comment number 4.


    Britsh people are so terrified of being embarrassed by this kind of stuff... Opening ceremonies are always a bit naff and and the rest of the world won't give that much of a monkeys if ours is as well.

  • Comment number 5.

    I have always been in favour of the Olympics and the sporting content but every month there seems to be a PR gaff to dent the optimism;

    Will we or the athletes notice an extra £40m I doubt would it undermine the games I doubt it. Security & logistics I understand but show boating in a time of austerity no thanks.

    There are enough of us genuine sports fans without tickets spend £40m on more tickets for the kids and the future NOT an image or perception!

  • Comment number 6.

    The most spectacular closing ceremony of any Olympic Games took place at the 1956 Melbourne Games, and it cost the Organising Committee under £5000 to stage.

    Since the beginning of the ancient Games in 776 B.C., athletes had never marched in the Closing Ceremony, but at the 1956 Games, all the athletes were invited to march in the Closing Ceremony; not as separate nations but as one United Olympic Nation.

    This spectacular idea came from a seventeen year old schoolboy in a letter to the Organising Committee. The president of the IOC Avery Brundage agreed to the boy’s suggestion, just two days before the Closing Ceremony.

    See Youtube ….John Ian Wing

  • Comment number 7.

    @ rbbernutz

    I disagree. I thought Barcelona and Sydney were great( something perhaps we should realistically attempt to emulate) and Beijing was superb.Athens was also good. Many people like the ceremonies. Personally I am not bothered.

    They will set the tone for how these games are perceived by the wider public and media, both home and abroad.

  • Comment number 8.

    How much are we paying Danny Boyle? Do we really need the director of Shallow Grave coordinating a sporting event ceremony? What next, John Humphrys doing the 100m commentary - Lord save us, they'd never get to starting line, never-mind the finish. Perhaps this London 2012 Opening Ceremony schedule would be slightly cheaper.

  • Comment number 9.

    Roger a few Questions regarding Virgin Media signing BBC sports coverage deal if i may, it states that it will have access to all 24 streams of coverage that the BBC is broadcasting of various Olympic events, as well as other BBC Sporting events.

    What is the point in offering Olympic Coverage to Virgin when, most people will have access to the BBC anyway, surely those who have Virgin will also have the BBC Channels, so why would they tune into Virgin to watch the Olympic? It doesnt make sense or am i missing something?

    Will the Virgin deal have any effect on how the Olympics will be broadcast on the BBC, will Virgin Media be involved in any of the Broadcasting, or will they play a part in the technical side?


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