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Building The Olympic Dream

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Roger Mosey | 14:01 UK time, Tuesday, 3 March 2009

In a recent thread, the reader known as Brekkie asked a question about the Olympics (#81).

"Putting your 2012 hat on, I notice there's a three-part special starting on BBC Two. Any details?"

- so here they are for him and for everyone else.

"Building The Olympic Dream" is a series being made by the BBC's in-house factual department which follows the inside story of the London Games.

This was commissioned before we'd moved into the new phase of the BBC Olympic project but it fits neatly with our aims: telling the story of 2012 not just through sport but in documentary, news and culture - and harnessing the BBC's resources at local, national and global level across all our platforms.

The London team take part in Beijing's closing ceremony

The first film is about the London handover ceremony in Beijing: the London bus, David Beckham and Leona Lewis. It follows the early planning meetings, the massive organisational challenges the London team faced in Beijing - and then the moment of truth with billions of people watching worldwide. The later films concentrate more on the physical building of the Olympics and the construction site in Stratford.

In my current job I'd known only that this programme was being made but I wasn't across any of the detail, so when I saw the DVD a few weeks back I came to it fresh. One big thing leapt out. It has astonishing access for filming: our crews were there in many of the key meetings - and full marks to the participants from LOCOG (the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games) and the ODA (the Olympic Delivery Authority) for being so open and for seeing this project as part of the public record of the Games.

Now, you may recall that the London segment of the closing ceremony didn't draw a rapturous reception from most commentators. Few of those handover moments do, and the film shows with complete clarity just how difficult it was to insert London's eight minutes into the Chinese party. One of the strengths of the programme is it allows viewers to make their own judgements - just as in the next two episodes you can decide how much you sympathise with the local residents facing disruption because of the Olympic project.

So it's recommended viewing - and we'd welcome comments after you've watched, either on BBC Two at 9pm on Wednesday or afterwards on the BBC iPlayer.


  • Comment number 1.

    It must have been a logistical nightmare for everyone concerned organising such a massive high profile event, lasting for just 8 minutes on the other side of the world and with the Chinese authorities to boot. Well done to them all. My own opinion is that the actual handover was too small in scale for the stadium (although I’m not sure how this could have been improved), the “show” which little girl out of bus, collects football, walking over rolling people on a crossing, back in the bus etc was far to complicated for the scale of the stadium/games but Leona, Beckham and Jimmy… especially Jimmy… well, a moment to remember. They should release whole lotta love next Christmas and Simon Cowell can get his number one but we can all enjoy it! And before anyone harps on about waste of money, I understand LOCOG is completely privately funded, so no tax payer’s cash involved?

  • Comment number 2.

    I understand LOCOG is completely privately funded, so no tax payer?s cash involved?


    Then you understand very very wrongly.

    Money is being diverted from projects around the country into London for 2012, money that could be spent on facilities in Cardiff, Glasgow, Manchester, Leeds, Bristol, Exeter etc. is now being poured into yet another bunch of stadia inside London.

    Money is being spent on temporary facilities instead of improving what we already have (see shooting at Woolwich barracks palava) and very little of it will leave an actual lasting legacy for the sports involved.

    The taxpayer may well not be payign a large direct amount but taxpayetrs outside of London are certainly paying for it in lost funding.

  • Comment number 3.

    Those 8 minute segments are always difficult to do. I thought the bus opening up was a great idea. A double decker red bus is a symbol of London.

    Wasn't over impressed with the hedge though.

    Some people keep asking why Leona Lewis was chosen. Well she comes from that part of London where the Olympics are going to be held. Would they have rather had a drunk Amy Winehouse? Also, she is one of the few western artists the Chinese would know of as her records ARE allowed on Chinese radio.

    Not to sure of the song though. Much better songs could have been used, Whole lotta love was never much of a song.

    There was a lot of snobbery by some in the media, but compared to the Aussie's with the drunk Kangaroo's and men on bikes I thought it was good.

  • Comment number 4.

    Part of the problem with the 8 minute segment was the awful sound quality - and it was worse on the BBC than on some other broadcasters such as NBC. The composer for the segment wrote about it the other day:

    "I suspect that the programme will make fairly nailbiting viewing as there were major highs and lows throughout the long development process for everyone, culminating in the adrenalin rush of the show at the Bird’s Nest Stadium - but followed by the revelation that the direct feed of music and sound (which we’d spent months preparing) didn’t appear to find its way from the stadium to TV sets."

    It's a pity a technical problem clouded so many views of the handover.

  • Comment number 5.

    The programme doesn't seem to be available on iPlayer - is it not going to appear there?

    If not, any idea when/if the first episode will be repeated?

  • Comment number 6.

    This isnt actually available on iplayer, how come?

  • Comment number 7.

    @hackerjack (#2): actually, you are so very wrong. LOCOG is actually entirely privately funded - they are funded through the IOC (Broadcast Revenue & International Sponsors), through local Sponsors, through tickets, merchandise and other marketing.

    The ODA (Olymic Delivery Authority) who are building the infrastructure are the publicly funded body.

    There's a massive difference between the two.

  • Comment number 8.

    I understand LOCOG is completely privately funded, so no tax payer?s cash involved?

    Well I've looked this up.

    LOCOG is completely funded by ticket sales, merchandise sales and above all sponsorship revenues from domestic partners and directly from the IOC TOP partners and broadcaster revenues. Their budget is £2bn, not 1 penny from tax payers, Whitehall or council tax.

    The ODA however is funded by Whitehall, tax payers, and the national lottery.

    Given this fact, the handover didn't come out of our pockets, otherwise we might have more room to moan about it!

  • Comment number 9.

    #1: I understand LOCOG is completely privately funded, so no tax payer?s cash involved?


    #2: Then you understand very very wrongly.


    Actually, I would argue that 'jonasheros' in #1 is on the whole correct, as it is the ODA that is responsible for building the stadia and which is receiving the public funds. LOCOG is responsible for putting on the games themselves, and will get the large majority of its £2bn budget from private investors, with numerous Tiers of sponsors already signed up.
    LOCOG officially is not in charge of building the facilities themselves, although the two bodies both form what is 'London 2012'.

  • Comment number 10.

    i spotted this blog yesterday and was looking forward to watching the programme on Iplayer. However it is listed as unavailable.

    Will this change at a later date, or will the show be repeated?

  • Comment number 11.

    Hi all - apologies for the delay but I'm told the iPlayer version is still being processed. It should be available soon, though I haven't yet been given a timing.

  • Comment number 12.

    A great programme, and as you say, some unbelievable access - and glad it wasn't toned down as to not offend some Beijing officials too!

    Look forward to next week's too as it covers something that has really been ignored by the press - although when the games are anywhere else the stories of people displaced to build the infrastructure are usually all over our papers. Unfortunate yes, but a necessary sacrifice IMO.

  • Comment number 13.

    Sadly I missed this on BBC2, disappointed that it has not appeared on iplayer as advertised.

  • Comment number 14.

    It's there now. Again, sorry it took a bit of time.

  • Comment number 15.

    Totally underwhelmed by the event , the French are still laughing.

  • Comment number 16.

    Just as a response to Hackerjack.

    What bunch of stadia in London are you referring to??

    I understand the loss of money for outside London, but one should realise that London has, in some cases deliberately, been held back inn the facilities stakes for the last 50 years with the exception of Football.
    The last big facility built in London was Crystal palace in the 1960's. 30 years ago my sport was saying we needed a comprehensive overhaul of the facilities we had. So far we have lost 90% of those, the Olympics will only give London one facility when it needs many. But it is something that is desperately needed for sport and participation. I agree with the fracas over shooting - it seems a deliberate ploy to make sure that shooting gets no legacy and the Equestrian side is equally stupid.

    My problem with 2012 is that I think too much money will go on consultants and not enough on spreading the Olympic legacy to where it needs to go. We could do it so much better, if we took the army of consultants out of the equation!

  • Comment number 17.

    The latest issue of 'The Oldie' contains the following article.
    "As Private Frazer used to say, we're all doomed - doomed to be lumbered with paying the inflated costs of the 2012 Olympics for decades after they are over. One particular item, the athletes' village, is horribly over-priced at £1 billion for only 2,800 poky flats. But when a rival bid offered larger flats in more attractive blocks for half the price, it was dismissed.
    "David Higgins, the head of the Olympic Delivery Authority, was formerly the CEO of the Lend Lease Group, a property and construction company. When he got the ODA job, just a few years after leaving Lend Lease, the official price tag of the Games was still under £3 billion. No one imagined it would more than treble within two years. Nor did anyone imagine that Higgins would unblinkingly see the best contract, for the £1 billion athletes' village, go to his old company, Lend Lease. Not only that, but the ODA has ensured that Lend Lease walks away from the Games with a guaranteed profit, no matter how much the taxpayer has to pay.
    "How did these things come about? When the final shortlist for the athletes' village was announced, it contained only two names: Lend Lease and a team made up of French giant Bouygues with Barratt Homes. None of the U K' s largest development companies vied for the project. They had their reasons. Land Securities, Grosvenor, Quintain, Hammerson and Development Securities all thought that the idea of 4,500 homes built for the Games and coming onto an East End market all at once in August 2012 was too great a risk to take. But they also thought that, given Higgins's recent relationship with Lend Lease, there was little point in bidding on what they saw as an uneven playing field. One leading developer told the Estates Gazette at the time: 'We had particular concerns about Stratford being able to absorb so many new homes immediately post-Olympics ... Anyway, we reckoned that if Lend Lease wanted it, their former CEO would probably give it to them.' In March 2007, he did.
    "It was always assumed until last June, that is - that a condition of Lend Lease's partnership with the ODA was that the company would raise £450 million of private funding for the Olympic Village, reducing the taxpayers’ liability by that amount. But when Lend Lease admitted that it had failed to do so, Higgins's ODA failed to blink. As if by magic, Lend Lease was transformed from a risk-taking, fund-raising partner into a fee-only project manager which could only profit from the Games whatever happened. Failed to raise private money? Never mind, the public purse will fill the gap. Can't sell the flats after the Games? Never mind, the public sector will buy them instead. In July 2008 Higgins told the Public Accounts Committee that the number of flats was going to be cut from 4,500 to 3,300, and in October the figure dropped again, to 2,800. The price tag remained £1 billion. This means that five athletes will be crammed into each flat instead of four, and the flats will be built without kitchens so that an extra athlete can sleep in the kitchen space.
    "A simple calculation shows that dividing a billion pounds by 2,800 flats is over £350,000 per flat. However, two-bedroom flats in the Stratford area are currently available for £180,000 or less. The ODA has consistently refused to discuss or justify the cost of the athletes' flats or explain why they should cost £1 billion. Nor will it discuss an alternative scheme, put together by a group of construction experts, which would produce 3,010 flats for £500 million.
    "The ODA and ministers are content to see half a billion squandered, while newspapers prefer not to be seen as attacking the sacred Olympic cow by showing the cheaper rival scheme. Why does nobody seem to care?"
    Snouts in the trough? I reiterate the last question in the article.

  • Comment number 18.

    This programme was really very good. It's great to see behind the scenes are understand all of the effort that goes into the Olympics. I just wondered if there was anything similar that could be done for the Winter Olympics? Do the Canadian TV companies do anything similar? I kno we are biased as it's a UK thing - but insights into the Winter Olympics would also be good to see. At , Snow Menu , there is already a good bit of interest in the Winter Olympics - from UK people too. So would be good to see some alternative views from the BBC! It's not just about 2012.


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