Robertson Hails London as Model for Cost-Effective Olympics; Final Test Events
(ATR) Britain's Olympics minister Hugh Robertson tells Around the Rings
that London 2012 can inspire other countries to bid for and stage the Olympics in a cost-effective way.
Hugh Robertson, Britain's Olympics minister. (ATR)
Robertson was speaking Tuesday to ATR
at the Department of Culture, Media & Sport in London, where he announced that the Olympics are on time and under budget with 150 days to go.
Robertson told ATR
he would “challenge anyone to find a more transparent Games” and said he hoped they would find similar difficulty in finding a more cost-effective Games than London 2012.
“Part of our objective as a government, as the government before us, was to try and make sure that through London 2012 we slightly descaled the whole Olympic project, that we showed that you can do this and do this well with a much more manageable budget,” he said.
“When you look at the scale undertaken in Beijing, it could only really be undertaken by a country of that size.
"Part of what we must do through the Olympics is to bring all this down to a more manageable total financially, so that actually other countries elsewhere around the world who have not had the confidence to bid for it can have that confidence in future bidding cycles.”
Figures from the government’s February Olympic Quarterly Economic Report show that the overall funding package for the Games remains at $14.8 billion with $836 million of uncommitted contingency available – a reduction of $1.6 million on the previous quarter.
But while the DCMS may be pleased at London 2012 coming in under the original budget set in 2007, Robertson assured ATR
that ministers were not being too frugal with spending on transport upgrades and security measures for the Games.
“The scope of what we need to spend is decided by the experts in that particular area,” he said.
“So take the example of transport: we work very closely with Transport for London. We’ve agreed a set of plans, we’ve priced those up and we’ve checked those budgets. We’ve rigorously gone back over those budgets to make sure we’re not spending any more than we need to spend," he added.
“And that all goes through a series of financial committees and finally comes under my signature as minister, so there’s a very detailed series of scrutiny measures that take place before any taxpayers money is committed to this project.”
It's not just the British taxpayers who are concerned about what the Games budget is used for – other 2012 stakeholders in the Olympic Movement want to feel like their demands are taken care of.
Tuesday marks 150 days until the Games. (ATR)
Discussions along these lines took place at the ANOC Executive Council meeting in London last week.
Robertson insisted the meeting went well for 2012 organizers. “Normally this is a pretty difficult meeting because they’re quite demanding on behalf of the athletes – they want things done for the athletes and not the country – and I know in previous Games it’s a body that has caused the organizing committee an enormous amount of trouble," he said.
“In London, however, they [ANOC] were so pleased with what they saw, so pleased with the presentations they
were given and the various commitments made that that formed hardly any part of their meeting. They basically gave London 2012 a big tick in the box.”
Also Tuesday, the Olympic Delivery Authority revealed that its construction program was 96 percent complete, which means some of its budget has been transferred to LOCOG for the remaining period leading up to the Games.
Robertson explained this as a simple financial transaction.
“A classic example is security. The ODA build a fantastic stadium – they built it early, but it then needs to be secured until the moment the Games arrive, so actually once they have finished building it they have transferred the money associated with securing it over to the organizing committee," he said.
“It’s sensible to do it that way in order to maintain progress on the Olympic Park and get us there in time by July.”
London Gears Up for Final Test Events
LOCOG has announced plans for the final 11 test events for the Olympics.
Olympic Stadium will see its first competitive action May 4 through 7. (Getty Images)
A total of 31 Olympics warm-ups have so far tested London 2012 venues and operations. But the final batch, taking place between April 18 and May 8, include some of the biggest dress rehearsals for the Games to date.
Six events will take place in the Olympic Park over seven days from May 2 to 8, the first opportunity for LOCOG to test the common domain and multiple venues at the same time.
Particular focus is on the events that are slated to be held concurrently on the Olympic Park on Saturday, May 5 when the east London site will host up to 80,000 visitors.
Hockey, synchronized swimming, wheelchair tennis, water polo and Paralympic athletics are being staged that day.
The BUCS Visa Outdoor Athletics Championships – first test event for the Olympic Stadium – runs from May 4 to 7.
Olympic Rings Floated Down River Thames
London mayor Boris Johnson launched Tuesday a set of giant Olympic Rings onto the River Thames as he announced a program of cultural events to celebrate London 2012.
Olympic Rings on the River Thames. (Getty Images)
Measuring 11 meters high by 25 meters wide, the rings are travelling on a barge and will pass London landmarks including Tower Bridge and Canary Wharf.
From July 21 to Sept. 9, live music, outdoor arts and "pop-up" events will take place throughout London. They range from an original fusion of ballet and film to a floating opera.
As part of the London 2012 Festival, the mayor has commissioned a series of free cultural events called "Secrets: Hidden London". It includes a floating opera inspired by "The Owl And The Pussycat" and "Like a Fish out of Water", an English National Ballet creation capturing the nostalgia of three of London's lidos.
In addition, "Showtime" will be London's biggest-ever outdoor arts festival, bringing performances to all six Olympic boroughs.
"Wherever you are you will feel a part of the 2012 celebrations and experience a summer like no other," said Johnson.
Reported by Christian Radnedge and Mark Bisson
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