Will the Olympics Be Good for London? Heated Exchanges: Olympics Minister Tessa Jowell, Author and Columnist Will Self, Sport Commissioner Kate Hoey, Columnist Andrew Gilligan and Sebastian Coe, Chairman on the 2012 Games Organising Committee, at the Evening Standard Influentials Debate, Chaired by Anne McElvoy

The Evening Standard (London, England), July 9, 2008 | Go to article overview

Will the Olympics Be Good for London? Heated Exchanges: Olympics Minister Tessa Jowell, Author and Columnist Will Self, Sport Commissioner Kate Hoey, Columnist Andrew Gilligan and Sebastian Coe, Chairman on the 2012 Games Organising Committee, at the Evening Standard Influentials Debate, Chaired by Anne McElvoy


Byline: BENEDICT MOORE-BRIDGER

YES Tessa Jowell, Minister for the Olympics and London

MS JOWELL said the original vision of the bid was to "use the power of sport toreconnect young people with sport" and "regenerate one of the most deprivedparts of east London".

She said: "Not for one moment are we complacent because there are massivechallenges ahead but there is a track record of success so I am confident wewon't let London down.

"We will deliver the Games within the budget of [pounds sterling]9.3 billion. Yes, it went upbut once and only once. It is not spiralling out of control. We will cut costsif they begin to rise.

"We have seen possibly the greatest tennis match of all timeimagine four billion people watching from around the world.

What a great opportunity to showcase our great city to the rest of the world."She said the Games were also about giving London the sporting facilities itdeserves.

She added: "Seventy-five pence of every pound we are spending will go onlong-term regeneration. The Games won't just be good for London, they will begood for the whole of the UK and when they come they will be just great.

"We can be confident that when the end comes the whole city will be galvanisedand there will be cheap travel for people wanting to travel from anywhere inLondon." She said the Games would help close the gap between sportparticipation in young people and those competing at an elite level.

"Watching sport on the television is a completely different experience fromsport on the playing field or running track. All the evidence we have is thatthe legacy plans we have round the city will close the gap."

NO Will Self, author and Evening Standard columnist

With typically sardonic wit, Mr Self lambasted the Games, labelling them a"running and jumping festival".

He said providing sports facilities in schools would be a better use of moneythan paying for the Games.

He said: "I am not very interested in the Olympics. It is all about building ashopping mall out in Stratford. I live in London and have four children ofschool age. None of my kids have swimming lessons at school. Sportingfacilities are parlous and pitiful.

"If you want new transport infrastructure why don't they just build it ratherthan use the excuse of a running and jumping festival? If you want to buildsocial housing in the city why don't we just build social housing?

"I am not a cynic. My problem with what Tessa Jowell has said is they are thereal cynics. They don't believe you can do anything to help people in the citywithout involving the private sector. They don't believe anything could be donewithout a corporate logo slapped on it. They don't believe anything could bedone without appealing to people' basest instincts.

"It is good, old-fashioned boosterism at the end of the day. Wait for theeconomic downturn and see if these figures hold up.

"I don't want to be a Cassandra about thismaybe it will all come off fantastically. I would rather my kids do not have totake a 45-minute bus journey to their nearest playing field. That would inspire them."

He said having seen dilapidated stadia in Montreal in the Seventies, he wasfearful of the after-effects of the 2012 Games if costs are not well managed."It could really go dreadfully wrongthe city (Montreal) was almost bankrupted by the maladministration. You cannotmanipulate London as if it were a planned city. It has its own anarchic andstrange ways. It is bigger than the Labour Government, it will be bigger thanthe Conservative Government.

"London is more likely to be paralysed than galvanised."

MAYBE

Kate Hoey MP, Commissioner for Sport

Ms Hoey said strategic plans had to be put in place to increase sportparticipation for the Games to be considered a success.

She said: "There is excitement about the Olympics but it will only be trulygood for London if it leaves a real sporting legacy for every Londoner. …

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Will the Olympics Be Good for London? Heated Exchanges: Olympics Minister Tessa Jowell, Author and Columnist Will Self, Sport Commissioner Kate Hoey, Columnist Andrew Gilligan and Sebastian Coe, Chairman on the 2012 Games Organising Committee, at the Evening Standard Influentials Debate, Chaired by Anne McElvoy
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