Going to work this morning, The Times caused the blood pressure to reach dangerous levels when it reported that that favourite issue of mine, the cost of the 2012 Olympic Games, had once again raised its head. Government officials have reported that the contingency fund of £2.7 billion is virtually all gone. Now there’s a surprise.
Reporting to the Public Accounts Committee, Jonathan Stephens, Permanent Secretary at the Department for Culture, Media, and Sport, was accused of “grossly under estimating” the costs of the Games, and “sheer incompetence” and “deceit” by coming up with such a low figure when the original bid was first won.
Naturally, Labour has washed their hands of any blame, pointing instead to construction inflation and the high risk nature of the project. This does seem strange, when only two weeks ago we were told that European labour was leading to reduced building costs and that a boom was only round the corner. As to the high risk, Brown only told us yesterday that Britain was a fortress and we had nothing to worry about as long as we were vigilant.
The Olympic Games is a massive opportunity for this country on a cultural, political, sporting and tourist levels. Sadly, it is also a cash cow for consultants, executives, managers and ex athletes who all should be thinking of their country before their wallets. When the dust has finally settled on the finishing lines, it will be interesting to see how much money has been leeched to these sources.
As to the final costs? I have a bet (£10) with my father that it will reach the lofty high jump heights of £25 billion. He favours £15 billion. Either way, the current £12 billion maximum is quickly approaching, and we have five more years of training left!
When it comes to making money, its gold medals to the pen pushers, and wooden spoons for the rest of us.