Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Minutes of Evidence


Examination of Witnesses (Questions 278 - 299)

WEDNESDAY 14 MARCH 2001

MR SIMON CLEGG, MR ROBERT DATNOW AND MR DAVID LUCKES

Chairman

  278. Gentlemen, thank you very much indeed for coming to see us today. If it is not an inapposite metaphor, we are coming to the home stretch of this particular inquiry and Mr Wyatt will stretch you a little with his questions.

  (Mr Clegg) Thank you.

Derek Wyatt

  279. I am sympathetic to the idea of an Olympic bid; there have been quite a few leaks during the last couple of weeks which may or may not represent your full position but we have also had presentations in the House by Ove Arup about a bid in east London so can you just clarify which bids are which bids?
  (Mr Clegg) Mr Wyatt, there has been quite a lot of speculation particularly over the last 48 hours in the build-up to this presentation today. Some of the reporting has been accurate: some of it has been less accurate; some of it has been totally inaccurate. I believe that you have seen a copy of our report and you will understand that there are elements of that contained in the press speculation which I do not intend to fuel any further today, but I think it is common knowledge that our report contains both a west London option and an east London option and, within those, contains a number of different options regarding possible sites. What I would like to say is that there is currently no Olympic bid and there are currently no firm decisions taken on any particular sites for any particular sports or, indeed, for any particular venues.

  280. And the Ove Arup bid?
  (Mr Clegg) The Ove Arup bid we are not aware of. Certainly the work that has been undertaken by the four working parties over the last three and a half years has concentrated on looking at the sporting facilities, the possible sites for an Olympic village, the transportation issues and the fourth area which is now absolutely fundamental to a future London bid or any future Olympic bid, the issue of sustainability. Regarding the Arup bid I will invite David Luckes to comment.
  (Mr Luckes) I certainly know they did a presentation to the Thames Gateway group and I think that was something that was fuelled by Arups themselves. They presented a number of options, some of which are included in our report and some of which are not.

  281. And they have had no contact with you?
  (Mr Clegg) Not directly with myself. I do believe that I was invited to attend the presentation to the Thames Gateway group but could not go, and David Luckes attended on my behalf.

  282. Sydney was a success; we saw it, as the Chairman says on the home stretch or the last lap, in 1999 and the impression was that it was almost contained on one site. The issue with London is we just do not have the core infrastructure for a single site but like London Gatwick and London Luton you can sometimes annexe London to other places. Given that the largest shopping mall is in Dartford in one of the ten empty chalk pits, have you not considered London Dartford as a single site?
  (Mr Clegg) The situation in Sydney, as you rightly say, was very impressive from an organisational point of view. It was fantastic for athletes to be able to walk from the Olympic village to 14 of the 28 sites contained within the Olympic programme. I think there is a very serious issue out in Sydney and Homebush regarding the sustainability of those facilities concentrated on one area and we believe that you will not see such a situation repeated again for the foreseeable future within the context of an Olympic Games. Certainly if you look at the sites in Athens they are considerably more spread out and that is likely to be the direction that the Olympic Games will go in the future because of the whole issue of sustainability.

  283. Sustainability is a big issue. In the end it would take probably a Government grant, if that is the right word, of between £3 and £4 billion to create a sustainable site but if you had the vision it might be possible to move one or two colleges out of London, like Imperial or University, because you have the accommodation for the three or four weeks of the Olympics but not afterwards and, if there is a university campus, that would be able to take that. The vision has to be much bigger, therefore. Where do you think the decision-making process should be placed in Government?
  (Mr Clegg) We believe that a decision to bid for the Olympic Games will impact upon every department of Government and as such a decision as to whether to support a bid probably should be made by the Cabinet or the Prime Minister himself. This is a major decision which will touch on every department of Government and I think that the excellent reception we received from the Secretary of State and the Minister when we presented our work in progress report on 1 February indicated that that was the sort of direction they saw it taking.

  284. I might include the Treasury in that conversation. When Trevor Brooking was talking to me he said he thought that, to replace and up-grade all of the swimming pools we have in this country, given that Australia has I think fifteen 50m swimming pools and we have four and we got no medals this time, would cost the local authorities £5.4 billion, and he could not see that ever happening. When you look from our position and our perspective, do you think our responsibility as politicians should be to up-grade the local grass roots facilities first so that people can swim so then we can get gold medals at some time, or do you think we should go for the bigger elements where we are going to spend a lot of money in one area but swimming pools are needed in every single community?
  (Mr Clegg) Dealing with the issue of the number of swimming pools to start with, the figures that you quote I believe are not correct. There are considerably more than four 50m swimming pools in this country. That said, I will accept that there are nowhere near the number that are in France or Germany. With the help of Lottery funding we are up to about I believe 10 or 12—maybe 15—50m swimming pools in the country. There is not one in London capable of staging major international swimming events, and for an Olympic Games we would require four 50m swimming pools. However you can be fairly clever with the way you crack that particular problem because you can now construct temporary 50m swimming pools which is going to be the model for the future of the Olympic movement where you cannot sustain that number of permanent facilities in such a close proximity. To pick up your second point, whether we should be investing in an Olympic Games or in grass roots development, the British Olympic Association would argue that you should be investing in both; the two are not mutually exclusive, and there are different benefits for investing in both grass roots sport and elite sport through investment in a successful Olympic bid.

  285. If you did a sport audit, I suspect we need to spend £30 or £40 billion, and sport does not have that political clout currently in the capital but that is another issue. In your report you mentioned that 98 athletes got personal bests?
  (Mr Clegg) That is correct.

  286. I asked the United Kingdom Sports Council for the statistics and, apart from the actual medallists, the personal bests were achieved by less than 10 per cent of all athletes. Can you explain the difference between your interpretations?
  (Mr Clegg) I am delighted to be able to give a plug for Kellogg's who put aside £100,000 cash to be distributed to those British athletes who performed personal bests at the Olympic Games in Sydney. A review group reviewed all of the applications that we received from individual athletes and out of those it was considered that 98 had received personal bests and therefore took in excess of just over £1,000 cash per individual athlete which was matched by a similar sum invested in the sports club of that particular athlete's choice, making sure that some of that money went down to grass roots level as well.

  Chairman: Mr Wyatt, I am afraid I am going to have to move on. If there is time I will come back to you.

Mr Fearn

  287. You stated that you will bid for the Olympics only if there is a realistic chance of success. What do you mean by that? Do you mean in the bid or what follows it?
  (Mr Clegg) I hope I have been consistent in saying that the British Olympic Association will only put forward a bid if, firstly, it has the complete and absolute backing of both the Government and the City of London in the GLA and the Mayor and, secondly, if we believe we have a realistic chance of success. We are not interested in putting together a good bid: we are only interested in putting together a winning bid. We have been through this exercise a number of times—most recently with Birmingham's bid for 1992; and Manchester's bid for 1996 and again in 2000—and we believe we should only enter this contest if we really believe we have a good chance of success. It is a highly competitive environment and we will be up against some of the leading cities in the world.

  288. Who do you think should make that assessment?
  (Mr Clegg) That assessment should be made by the three key stakeholders not by any one stakeholder, and they are the British Olympic Association, the Government and the GLA.

  289. In December 1996 you decided, as a body, that London was the only place for the Olympic bid if we got one. Why not other cities? Is it full stop to anybody like Manchester, for instance?
  (Mr Clegg) It is. After the failure of Manchester's bid for the 2000 campaign, and obviously they lost out to Sydney in Monte Carlo in 1993, we took stock of our position. We had bid for the previous three games, or the three games that were up for offer at that stage, and it was determined, having taken advice from the members of the International Olympic Committee, that only a city of London's standing would be capable of bidding successfully to stage a future Olympic Games.

  290. So what about London itself? Is it east or west? What is the focus going to be on? Where is the financial statement on these at the moment? Is there one? Is there any kind of figure being put on it at the moment?
  (Mr Clegg) There is no Olympic bid. I believe through your Chairman and the Committee you have had an opportunity of seeing the report and, as has been previously stated, the report works up both an east London and a west London bid and I believe that the decision as to whether to go for east or west needs to be made by the three key stakeholders, not the British Olympic Association.

  291. How soon do you think an Olympic stadium should be built? When should it start if we are to make a bid?
  (Mr Clegg) In my opinion, it should have started some time ago. With the initial design briefs for Wembley, we should have shown the long-term strategic planning necessary if we are going to convince the international sporting community that we are serious about hosting the world's greatest sporting event. Every time we consider a sporting facility in our capital city, we should be factoring in—or certainly not specifically factoring out—the opportunity for that facility to be used in the context of a future London Olympic Games.

  292. So you think we are already behind—not too late, but late?
  (Mr Clegg) I think we had an opportunity with Wembley and that opportunity has now been lost. What I am absolutely convinced of is that, if we seek further development of sporting facilities in our capital city, we must do our utmost to ensure that we are not specifically precluding that facility from being used in the context of a future Olympic Games. In Sydney, for example, I am sure you visited the wonderful aquatic centre that was built as part of the contribution to their Olympic bid. I believe it has 4,000 seats on a permanent basis but it was built in such a way that they could extend it with the most magnificent temporary facility to increase that seating capacity up to about 17,500. That to me shows long-term vision and strategic planning.

  293. So is it the Government that is dragging its feet?
  (Mr Clegg) No; it is no-one. For reasons of which I believe you are well aware, our report was not finalised until the back end of last year: we presented to the Secretary of State and to the Minister on 1 February this year and we presented to the Mayor of London at the back end of last week. Decisions will come out of those presentations. I think we are a long way yet and a considerable amount of further work has to be done even before the stakeholders have the information which will determine whether they wish to bid or not, and there will be many opportunities for any one of those three stakeholders to put their hand up and say, "I am sorry; we can proceed no further", and at that point no bid will be put forward.

Chairman

  294. You said to Mr Fearn that the opportunity for Wembley has gone and Mr Fearn asked you about the potential location of Olympic Games in London. Do you believe that Picketts Lock (a) can be completed as anticipated and (b), if completed, would be a suitable venue? If the answer to either or both of those is "No", do you believe that a venue should be built from scratch and, if so, where?
  (Mr Clegg) I should start off by saying that the 2005 World Athletics Championships are very important to this country, particularly if at that stage we find we are running a bid for 2012 because it is highly likely that the decision will be made within two months of the staging of that event and, therefore, we need a stadium that is fit to stage a World Athletics Championships in the context of a bid. In the context of Picketts Lock and the Olympic Games, it was made clear to us that if we insisted that Picketts Lock be constructed in a configuration fit to stage a future Olympic Games, this could push back the planning permission to such an extent that the facility would not be constructed in time for the 2005 World Athletics Championships. Having secured that event, it is very important to British sport that we deliver it and deliver it well. That is the situation, therefore: Picketts Lock from a track and field athletics perspective in the context of an Olympic Games would not be suitable. If, however, we were to run a bid and if that bid was to be in the east end of London, then Picketts Lock along with many other facilities could be used for one or a number of the 28 different sports that are currently within the Olympic programme.

  295. Do you think it reasonable of the Olympic authorities that, taking into account the numbers to be expected for most athletics events in the Olympic Games, they should nevertheless appear to require a very much larger stadium simply to contain the number of people who would attend the opening and closing ceremonies which after all, although they can be extremely enjoyable, are not an intrinsic part of a series of athletic events?
  (Mr Clegg) I believe that we have sent you a copy of the new candidate city file or manual for bidding cities for the 2008 games which interestingly, for the first time ever, takes out a specific required number of seats for the opening and closing ceremonies. I do think, therefore, there is a degree of flexibility that has come into the equation. That said, we will be in a highly competitive environment against some of the leading cities around the world and we will have enough intrinsic challenges running London in that we have to put together a highly technical and competent bid and therefore we would need a main stadium that would be fit for that purpose.

Mr Maxton

  296. As this is the first time you have appeared before us since the Sydney Olympics it might be appropriate, through you, to congratulate all those athletes and sportsmen who not only won gold, silver and bronze medals but also achieved their personal bests during those Games. I hope you will pass that on to the various organisations whom you represent. Can I ask you this, however? Have you made any assessment of the impact of that success in terms of the participation rates in those sports which are Olympic? I accept it has been winter since and there are some where it is not easy, but have you made any assessment at all? Have you seen an upsurge in interest?
  (Mr Clegg) I have seen a report that was commissioned by United Kingdom Sport and no doubt they will prefer to answer that question later on, but there was certainly a significant upturn in the levels of interest of what will be deemed by some people as minority sports between the period preceding the Games and immediately thereafter. The challenge for the Olympic governing bodies is to sustain that and to build on the success and to ensure, as a country where normally we have a focus on football, apart from the seventeen days at the games that interest is harnessed and we can build on that success. I believe we can and I think you have had a copy of our post Sydney report which indicates that the challenge for British sport in Athens in 2004 should be to be in the top eight in the world.

  297. The sustainability at the end of the day in that way must mean facilities and coaching. Is that not where we ought to be investing our money rather than on big projects, to ensure we can organise big games?
  (Mr Clegg) I would argue that we are investing in those areas already, and thank you for pointing out the success of the team in Sydney. It was quite phenomenal. At the end of the day, it is athletes who win gold medals, not organisations like the British Olympic Association, but we very much hope we played some small part in that. The Lottery, however, has had a huge impact—both in terms of facility development around the country through the various sports councils and in particular through the World Class Performance Programme run by United Kingdom Sport for the British bodies which have allowed the governing bodies for the first time ever to go out into the market place and employ world class coaches. We are now beginning to reap some dividends from that investment and I have every confidence and believe that that return through Olympic success will be built on in Athens in 2004.

  298. Can I ask you to make a realistic assessment now of when you think Britain has any chance of getting the Olympic Games, given that they are in Europe in 2004, Africa has never had them, South America has never had them, and Asia has had them once. When do you realistically think that Britain has a chance of getting the Olympic Games?
  (Mr Clegg) Of course, one needs to speculate to do that in terms of where the 2008 decision is going to go on 13 July. If you believe what you read in the newspapers at the moment, Beijing seems to be clear favourite. If the Games go to Paris, which obviously is running for 2008 as well, then it is inconceivable that the Games would come back to Europe again in 2012 having been in Athens in 2004, Turin in 2006 and Paris in 2008. If, however, the Games do go to Beijing then it certainly opens up Europe as a possible area for consideration in 2012, but we are a long way from announcing a bid yet, as I have said a number of times.

  299. I think 2012 is very optimistic, personally. As you say, it is possible but not probable by a long way. If, as you say, you only make a bid if you think you are going to win it, then to be honest with you I think we would more likely be talking about 2020 as the first realistic chance of getting the Olympics and maybe that is what we should be saying—aim for 2020, it is a long way off, there will be lots of time to develop the facilities, and in the meantime we can concentrate on sporting success rather than on bidding for Olympics?
  (Mr Clegg) Mr Maxton, I have read your comments in the press. One of the long-term objectives I set when I took over as Chief Executive was to see the Olympic Games back in this country before I retired, and I retire in 2024. I believe that we have shown some long-term vision and planning; we have been working on this for three and a half years, and I do not believe—and this is somewhat biased and I hope it does not come over too arrogantly—that any government or city, and you have seen a copy of our substantial report, has got that amount of information so far before even having to decide whether they wish to bid or not. We are taking this project very seriously indeed and we believe there is nothing that will move sport up both the political and social agenda in this country like attracting this event back to the United Kingdom.


 
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