The Olympics

The Olympics


News, information and stories about the Olympics.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Over Budget and Overdue

In another example of the gross mismanagement and incompetence that is plaguing the organisation and planning of the 2012 London Olympics, the new plans for a "slimmed-down" Olympic aquatics centre have been unveiled that show a budget overrun of £25M and a completion date that is three years late.

When the designs were first submitted last year, Tessa Jowell, the Olympics minister, reportedly claimed that "a change in the specification had almost doubled the costs, which is simply unacceptable".

Despite that attempt to rein in the costs, the budget is still going to overrun by £25M.

To add to the Olympics misery Jack Lemley, the Olympics chief who resigned over the spiralling costs, accused Jowell of "mud slinging". This is based on reports that Jowell, whose husband faces criminal trial in Italy, secretly told MPs that Lemley was too sick to continue in his job.

Jowell had allegedly said that he had suffered a stroke and that he "fell asleep in meetings".

Lemley was in fact being treated for an irregular heartbeat, just like Tony Blair's "minor problem" in 2004.

When he resigned, Lemley said:

"The costs are going to go up on an exponential basis and I'm just not going to be part of that."

Jowell, needless to say has let it be known, via a spokesman, that she disputes Lemley's claim:

"We are not aware that she had any conversations in which she said what you are describing."

Politicians are not fit to run a brothel, let alone organise a multi billion pound event such as the Olympics.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Rats in a Sack

It is a rare event indeed when I find myself agreeing with a Liberal Democrat. However, I am more than amused and in agreement with the description by Don Foster (Liberal Democrat Culture spokesman) of the politicians involved in the Olympics planning debacle as being like "rats in a sack"

A very fitting description indeed!

Foster has called upon the Labour Party to stop fighting "like rats in a sack" over the funding of the 2012 Olympics in London, and to "shut up" until the final budget is sorted out.

Hah! If only politicians could be made to shut up!

Foster's call came after a particularly shambolic week, in which Ken Livingstone (mayor of London) and Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell publicly disagreed over the budget for the 2012 Olympic Games.

Foster has correctly identified that public confidence in the Olympics is "ebbing away", and that the country would face "serious difficulties" if the in-fighting didn't end soon.


"This is nonsense arguing going on. We have got two different Government departments, we have got Ken Livingstone, we have got the Leader of the House, all acting like rats in a sack fighting each other. This isn't what it should be about".


"Nobody knows where we stand and confidence in our ability to deliver the Olympics is sadly ebbing away when it is going to be absolutely fantastic. We should be celebrating it and I wish people frankly would shut up."

Quite rightly he is calling for a proper budget, which should be independently audited and presented to Parliament and the people. However, this budget should have been prepared and audited prior to the bid being put forward for the Games. That way we would have had a say as to whether we really wanted the Games or not, rather than having them foisted on us as a fait a compli.

As Foster says:

"If confidence ebbs away at the rate it is doing at the moment then I think we are in serious difficulties."

Never leave large scale projects in the hands of politicians, they are not capable of running them without allowing their own egotistical self interest to take priority.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Travellers Fight Olympics

As if the London 2012 Olympics did not have enough problems (including a budget that is out of control, and a site contaminated with toxic waste) it has now hit another hurdle.

Plans to move a group of Travellers, from Clays Lane Newham, to make way for the Olympics have come unstuck.

The Travellers who have lived on the same East London site for 35 years, part of an area designated for the Games, have been offered an alternative site. However, the site that they have been offered is one of the few green spaces in the area currently used for sport and recreation.

The Travellers and the residents have formed an alliance to fight the plans to move them on to what is being described by some as "a traffic island". Lawyers for the Travellers are threatening a judicial review, which would significantly delay any moves.

Tracie Giles, from one of 15 families, said:

"It's ridiculous. It's a local park."

Jonathan Green, a resident and chairman of a joint action group, said:

"Many of the houses and flats round here don't have gardens so it is the one green space they can go to."

It is clear that whoever did the planning for the 2012 Games either did not do a very thorough job, or assumed that "issues" such as this could just be bulldozed out of the way (as they are doing in China).

This bodes ill for the future/success of the 2012 Games.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Taxpayers Screwed

As befitting the arrogant incompetence of those who are mismanaging the London 2012 Olympics, Tessa Jowell (whose husband is facing criminal trial in Italy) broke the news to parliament yesterday that the Olympics costs were overrunning and that the taxpayer would be making up the shortfall.

Tessa Jowell, Secretary for Culture Media and Sport, finally had to come clean to the world that the costs were out of control.

Jowell, like all politicians, does not like being caught out; therefore it was a pleasure for many to see her squirm (one must take one's pleasure when one can).

However, this is small compensation for the fact that the British taxpayer (or rather more accurately the London taxpayer) will have to foot the bill for this unwanted white elephant.

Jowell said that she could not rule out funding the shortfall with a further raid on the National Lottery, or by increasing the contribution made by London's council-tax payers.

The original budget of £2.375bn has now been derided as a "fag packet" calculation, and Jowell conceded that the current figure is more like £3.3bn.

This figure is of course nonsense, as the real costs are likely to exceed £8BN.

Why do the organisers keep trying to hide the truth from people?

Answer: because they are incompetent and venal.

Jack Lemley knew the score when he resigned, he saw very clearly that the costs of clearing the toxic waste from the site selected to hold the Olympics would be astronomical.

Why did the organisers choose a toxic dump to hold the Olympics on?

Did they tell the IOC this when they made the bid?

Anyone care to spill the beans on that?

Jowell did her best to blame everyone and everything else for this shambles; rising costs on construction inflation, the doubling of steel prices and a revised figure for public transport links serving the Games site near Stratford. Rather oddly the the original bid figure did not include the £400M cost of hiring the international project management consortium CLM.

Jowell warned that there were further "potential liabilities"; the costs of Olympic security £1BN, the extent of a contingency fund within the budget and a VAT bill of £250M

None of these were in the original budget.

The fact remains a budget is meant to take into account all of the costs.

The organisers have failed, and should be removed from their positions of responsibility.

Whether that happens or not, it is clear that the taxpayers will be screwed as a result of this shambles.

Monday, November 20, 2006

The Olympic Shambles

True to form, the 2012 London Olympics are now budgetarily out of control. The costs of holding this event are now expected to exceed £8BN, the original budget was for £2.4BN (it was then upgraded only last week to £5BN).

I warned of the dangers of spiraling costs last week, but never expected them to rise by over 50% again in less than a week.

To add to the shambles it is reported that Jack Lemley, the ex CEO of the Olympic Delivery Authority, resigned because of his worries over the budget. Specifically he feared that the cost of decontaminating the land, on which the Olympics will be held, will run out of control; he aslo feared that deadlines to decontaminate the land will be missed.

Mr Lemley also has sharply rebuked Mayor Ken Livingstone for alleging that Lemley resigned owing to health reasons, and a "major heart operation".

Mr Lemley stated that the operation was not major, and that he is extremely fit.

The one thing that we can all be sure of is that the costs of the fiasco will keep rising, and that the politicians such as Livingstone and Jowell (Culture Secretary) will do their best to avoid the blame.

Never allow politicians to take charge of major projects.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

London Olympics Bill Soars

As predicted on this site, the bill for the London 2012 Olympics is already way out of control.

The bill is now expect to be above £5BN, the original budget of £3.4BN has been thrown away.

Many excuses have been given for this appalling lack of cost control, and poor budgeting; extra security costs, an unforeseen VAT bill and private Treasury predictions of enormous cost overruns.

However, the overriding reason is clear; never, ever trust politicians to prepare accurate budgets or control costs. They are incapable, especially when the costs and budgets relate to an ego boosting extravaganza such as the Olympics.

Ken Livingstone, Mayor of London, claims that council taxpayers in London should not have to contribute more than the £625M already pledged. He would say that, and it should be remembered that he promised faithfully not to increase the congestion charge; a promise he promptly reneged on, once he was re-elected to office.

The lesson?

Don't trust politicians.

A new Olympics cost estimate is being worked out between Olympic project managers, the Treasury and the Department of Culture, Media and Sport. Needless to say this will be reviewed in the fullness of time as well.

The Chancellor's officials are so scared about the prospect of further budgetary disaster, that they are insisting on a contingency fund of 60% of the estimated £1BN building costs.

Hugh Robertson, the Tory spokesman, said:

"This is a story of monumental incompetence."

Jack Lemley, the American engineer who quit as chairman of the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA), raised the alarm the other week when he cited political interference and cost overruns as the reason for his unexpected departure.

As expected, this will be a shambles.

Sensible countries should do all they can to avoid hosting the Olympics, they are nothing but trouble and a waste time and money.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

London Struggles

London politicians will meet today, in special session, to debate the financial health of the London 2012 Olympics games.

The special meeting has been arranged as a result of claims from the former chairman of the Olympic Delivery Authority, Jack Lemley, that London will struggle to come in on time and on budget.

Mr Lemley resigned from his Olympics post recently, due to his fears that the Olympics would fail.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Olympics Bill Soars

The costs of the 2012 Olympics in London are already rising well beyond those originally budgeted for, not helped by the fact that the VAT element had been conveniently "forgotten" by those who put together the original budget.

It is now feared that these rising costs could have a damaging impact on the national lottery's ability to fund good causes.

John Whittingdale, a Tory MP who chairs the culture, media and sport select committee, said:

"The lack of clarity over the Olympic budget is of considerable concern. It is all very murky - the status of the regeneration budget is unclear and the question of VAT on construction work has not been clarified.

The impact on traditional lottery good causes could be horrendous. It is ringing all kinds of alarm bells at every lottery distributor

Negotiations are taking place between the Treasury and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport to provide new funds for the games.

The long suffering tax payers of London are expected to foot some of the bill, even though they weren't consulted in the first place as to whether they wanted the Olympics.

Additional funding will also come from the national lottery. On the existing budget the lottery has to raise £1.5BN.

Mr Whittingdale said:

"The Olympic lottery games have already top-sliced a lot of money from the main game to the Olympics; if it is top-sliced even more, it will mean further hits to the distribution bodies."

A culture department spokesman said:

"It has always been the case that the lottery would be a major part of the funding package. The Olympics present a fantastic opportunity to get people taking up sport, and [for] regenerating an area."

As ever it will be the tax payer who has to fund the ambitions of politicians.

Tuesday, November 7, 2006

The Olympian Tax Bill

As ever with Olympic projects, never ever trust the original budget submitted by those keen to win public support for hosting the Games.

The 2012 London Olympics are no such exception, as it turns out that some £250M in VAT payments were "forgotten" in the original budget submission.

Tessa Jowell, the culture secretary whose separated husband faces trial in Italy for fraud, came clean to the Commons and said that London's initial budget did not include the 17.5% cost of VAT on the construction of the venues and infrastructure.

The Treasury, never knowingly shortchanged on tax revenue, needless to say offers no hope of reprieve from this humiliation for the Olympic planners; it claims that its hands are tied by European law, and that the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) will have to pay the additional tax bill.

However, Hugh Robertson the shadow sports spokesman said that he had been given a personal "cast iron assurance" about six months ago by Ms Jowell in a corridor of the House of Commons that VAT would be waived on building the Olympic facilities.

Never ever trust Olympic budgets!

Ms Jowell claims that London's bid documents did not include VAT on the construction of venues for 2012, because the ODA had not been established and its legal status could not be anticipated.

Ever heard of contingency budgets Tessa?

In true weasel style, so typical of a politician, she then attempted to avoid responsibility by claiming that London's plans had been endorsed by a cross-government group and issues in relation to VAT were not identified as an issue at that point by the Treasury or by departmental accounting officers.

Mr Robertson said:

"The government is the author of its own problems by not being clear and transparent about the costs of the Olympics. The DCMS thought it had an agreement with the Treasury, but Gordon Brown played hardball and it unravelled. I am sure a solution will be found, but only after causing damage to the Olympic games. It is not doing the Olympic process any good."

Don't trust Olympic budgets, or the politicians who put them together.