Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Minutes of Evidence


Examination of Witnesses (Questions 320 - 326)

WEDNESDAY 14 MARCH 2001

MR SIMON CLEGG, MR ROBERT DATNOW AND MR DAVID LUCKES

  320. Yes.
  (Mr Clegg) I think it would have to be. Quite frankly, some of those sight lines were completely unacceptable and, as I told you the last time I appeared in front of you, Wembley mocked up for us in the old stadium some old seating and senior representatives from DCMS, United Kingdom Sport and we were there and the sight lines were totally unacceptable.
  (Mr Luckes) It is worth pointing out, I think, that the issue with sight lines was not what we felt was acceptable or unacceptable but that Wembley Stadium was being designed according to the guide of safety at sport grounds, the Green Guide, which says, "Ensuring adequate sight lines is an important part of providing safe seated accommodation", and the fact that these would be temporary is no excuse for acceptance of lower margins. What we were doing was drawing attention to the fact that, for an Olympic Games, we felt that obviously there were issues to do with sight lines and it was these we raised that were accepted by Ellerbe Becket.

  321. You seemed to find a more sympathetic ear when there was a change of sports minister from Tony Banks to Kate Hoey. Did you express all of these concerns to Tony Banks and Chris Smith at the time?
  (Mr Clegg) Absolutely. The chronology of events from our perspective which we laid out for you in your last inquiry is absolutely clear. You may recall that the first time we saw the designs for the new national stadium was three days before the launch and after a one hour presentation by the architects we asked the rather simple question, "Where is the Olympic dimension?", and it was quite obvious at that stage that they had not factored that in. I wrote to the then Minister of Sport on 27 July 1999, some two days before the launch, saying, "As you are aware, for the last 18 months the British Olympic Association has been consistently encouraging both Sport England and your own Department to involve us in the development plans and to satisfy the requirement for an 80,000 seater spectator capacity stadium in a track and field configuration. It is now obvious that, despite assurances to the contrary, at no stage has this information been passed either to the National Stadium Development Company or to their architects".

  322. It seems to me pretty unsatisfactory that we have a situation where Picketts Lock is not guaranteed on the evidence that we heard last week. There does not appear to me to be an absolute certainty that it will take place so there is an issue about athletics generally. I am becoming rather concerned that we are looking to attempt to make an Olympic bid at some point without a clear idea about the strategy for facilities; how they are going to be funded; and where they are going to be placed. Do you feel that is an issue that the British Olympic Association has come to terms with?
  (Mr Clegg) No, I do not believe it is, because I do not believe it is solely the British Olympic Association's decision. I believe that those sorts of decisions need to be made in partnership with the two other key stakeholders and that is why we have prepared this piece of work to allow the stakeholders to decide whether they want to become involved in the process which, at the end, will determine whether we bid or not. We are a long way from that and I think it would be arrogant and totally inappropriate for the British Olympic Association solely to decide and make decisions on those issues.

  323. And do you think there is a very important role for government to play in that?
  (Mr Clegg) Absolutely critical.

  324. Do you believe you are getting good Government support at the moment?
  (Mr Clegg) We received a very warm response to our presentation to the Secretary of State and to the Minister on 1 February. I followed that up with a letter to the Secretary of State inviting him to nominate the three partners that will form the Government's representatives on the stakeholders' group and I look forward to getting a response to that at the earliest opportunity. Certainly we are hoping to have the first meeting of the key stakeholders at the end of this month or at the very beginning of next month at the very latest.

Chairman

  325. I sometimes wonder, taking into account the groups of witnesses we had last week and the next group of witnesses that we are going to have, who I am sure will give valuable evidence to us, whether there is not just too great an agglomeration of organisations with their fingers in this particular pie—some of them telling us one thing, some of them another, all of them telling it to us in total good faith—and if it were not that I utterly deplore the phrase "joined-up Government" I would say that joined-up Government appears to be the one element we do not seem to have among the sporting authorities on this. Could I make a point particularly on behalf of Mr Faber, who has done a very great deal of work on this: that you referred to the Ellerbe Becket report and in our specific report on Wembley Stadium we found that report to be seriously flawed. May I make it clear I am not critical of you or the next group of witnesses or the witnesses we had last week, but I just wonder if there is an act that is being got together.
  (Mr Clegg) Chairman, is that question directed in the context of an Olympic bid or the national stadium?

  326. Both.
  (Mr Clegg) In the context of an Olympic bid, I think the Olympic charter is quite clear regarding where the ultimate responsibility for putting together a bid lies, and we have made it perfectly clear and have taken this issue very seriously. You can see that from the quality of the report you have received and the depths we have gone into to explore all of the different issues. We have made it absolutely clear that the three key stakeholders who will be fundamental—and I will ask Robert to comment in a moment in terms of the contract of an Olympic bid—are ourselves, the Government and the GLA. In terms of Wembley and the involvement of other organisations, as I said before the last time we met, the British Olympic Association is not a technical expert. We had some serious concerns regarding the sight lines which were substantiated by the models that have been made out at Wembley and I believe it was the Secretary of State who, through his Minister, commissioned an independent technical report and it was the findings of that report that was responsible for the current position.
  (Mr Datnow) Simply focusing on the British Olympic Association's central role in the new bidding process, you will recall that the International Olympic Committee in its reforms in December 1999, the International Olympic Committee 2000 reform, set out a new bidding procedure for the Olympic Games which is pretty detailed. The difference between it and the previous procedure is that it puts the British Olympic Association as the National Olympic Committee right at the centre of the framework for bidding for an Olympic Games, and the Committee in its Fourth Report specifically said that if British bids are to succeed they have to operate in the context of the decision-making frameworks established by international sporting bodies. There are four contracts that the British Olympic Association would need to sign with the host city—the questionnaire for applicant cities; the undertaking; the candidate bid document itself and also the host city contract, and the British Olympic Association is required in that process not only to supervise but also to be jointly responsible for the bidding process and for the guarantees that are given in the bidding documents.

  Chairman: It is very kind of you to amplify the situation and I am grateful to you all as witnesses for coming to see us. We have run a little over because we are so interested in what you have to say. As we proceed in this inquiry I have to say that I am more and more sympathetic with the views put forward by Mr Maxton and others. Thank you very much indeed, gentlemen.





 
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