Tessa Jowell: London 2012 Olympics was a mistake in light of recession
Tessa Jowell, the minister in charge of the London 2012 Olympics has admitted that it was a mistake, in light of the looming recession, to have bid for the games.
By Alistair Osborne, Business Editor
Last Updated: 4:52PM GMT 12 Nov 2008
Ms Jowell, the minister for the Olympics and Paymaster General, made her frank admission to around 40 leisure industry bosses at a dinner on Tuesday night.
“Had we known what we know now, would we have bid for the Olympics? Almost certainly not,” she told the gathering.
The budget for the 2012 games has risen almost four-fold to £9.35bn since Britain won the bid in July 2005, £6bn of which is coming directly from the Government.
Ms Jowell defended the spending as a “counter-cyclical investment” and claimed: “We have taken £1.5bn costs out of the project since we started.”
She attacked the media’s portrayal of the project, claiming that anyone who read the newspapers or watched the television would be left with three impressions: “The budget is out of control; all the venues are late; and all the people involved with this great project are completely useless.”
None were true, she said, adding: “People involved in the ODA [Olympic Delivery Authority] are world class.”
She said the “counter-cyclical benefit” was reflected in the companies working on the Olympic Park. “Ninety-eight per cent are UK companies, over two-thirds are small and medium companies and over half are outside London,” she said.
They included suppliers of steel from Wigan and seating from Huddersfield, Ms Jowell said.
She added that cities around the UK would also benefit from international teams using their training facilities. She said the Thai team planned to train in Manchester, while the American track and field team were close to opting to train in Birmingham.
“So there are opportunities right round the country. It’s unimaginable that this would be happening without the Olympics,” she said.
She added that there would also be a big benefit to tourism. “The estimate for London is that tourism will receive a £2bn boost,” she said, pointing out that following Barcelona’s 1992 Olympics the city “moved from 16th to 3rd in the most popular short-break destinations”.