Olympics feels wind of more austere times
On a recent visit to London's almost-finished Olympic Stadium I asked Lord Sebastian Coe, the figurehead of the 2012 Games, if he would still have launched the bid to stage sport's biggest and most expensive event if he had known the global economic downturn was just around the corner.
His response was an emphatic, unequivocal yes.
Without the Games, he argued, the British economy would have missed out on a major stimulus at a time when it needed it most.
Without the Games thousands of jobs for local workers would not have been created or contracts won by British companies.
And without the Games there would have been less incentive to tackle the shortage of housing and sporting facilities in east London, one of the country's most deprived areas.
These are persuasive arguments. But there can be no question that if David Cameron's coalition government was today faced with the option of bidding for an Olympics which, at the last count, will cost the public purse £9.28bn it is likely Britain's new Prime Minister might just say, "thanks, but no thanks".
Even Coe, the most impressive flag-waver British sport possesses, acknowledges there is a need for everyone involved in the Olympic project to be sensitive to the changed times.
And how changed they are. Three months before Coe delivered London's successful appeal to the International Olympic Committee in July 2005, Chancellor Gordon Brown announced in the budget that public borrowing was £34bn and predicted economic growth of 3%.
In his emergency budget this year, Chancellor George Osborne disclosed borrowing of £149bn and predicted just 1.2% growth. Osborne and Cameron have since embarked on a review of all public spending as they try to get debt back to 2005 levels by the time the Olympics start.
As the spending cuts bite and people feel the pinch, will the London Games come to be seen as an act of largesse the country quite simply could do without?
Already the Olympic Delivery Authority, the body charged with delivering the vast building project rising impressively out of the dust at Stratford, has been asked to find £27m of savings as part of the emergency budget.
And the likelihood is more cuts will come when Osborne announces the government's Comprehensive Spending Review in October.
Hugh Robertson, the Minister for Sport and the Olympics, says the government will do nothing which jeopardises the successful delivery of the Games.
But he admits in an interview with the BBC that ministers could raid the contingency set aside for cost over-runs and unforeseen risks.
According to the most recent figures released by the Department for Culture, there is £1.2bn left in the contingency pot. But that is forecast to fall to £527.8m by 2012.
At almost 6% of the cost of the Olympics that is a significant sum. The question for the government is whether it risks reducing the budget only to have to put it back up again if things go wrong nearer the time.
For while the construction of the Olympic Park may be 70% complete with exactly two years to go, there are still plenty of other risks waiting around the corner.
The major one is security which is being handled by the Home Office and currently has a budget of £600m with a contingency pot of £238m. Any sort of terrorist threat in the next 12 months could lead to a major cost revision and present a serious financial problem.
The second risk is the organising committee coming up short in its fundraising efforts to actually put on the Games.
In simple terms and to remind any readers still unsure about how all these various Olympic bodies work, the government and its building arm the ODA is responsible for building the stages on which the athletes will perform. The London organising committee (Locog), chaired by Lord Coe, is responsible for producing the show.
That part of the operation has a budget of £2bn. And according to the latest available figures, Locog has raised three quarters of that sum privately from sponsors and via the International Olympic Committee's marketing and television rights deals. The rest will come from ticketing and merchandising, but should there be a gap, Robertson admits that the government will have to step in.
And why? Because, unlike other public sector funding commitments, ultimately this or any other government can do nothing about the immovable Olympic deadline of 27 July 2012.