VIII. A LONDON OLYMPIC BID
149. The Olympic Games are different in scale to
all of the other events considered in the course of our inquiries.
The staging of the Olympics poses a unique set of challenges.
A decision to bid for the Games would profoundly affect strategy
for events and for facility provision in the United Kingdom. Equally,
as we have noted before, an unfocused sentiment in favour of a
bid without the will, commitment or capacity to see that bid through
could distort those strategies to the disadvantage of sport in
the United Kingdom.
150. While a new British Olympic bid has been long
in preparation, discussion of the issue has been given new impetus
by the overwhelming success of the Sydney Olympic Games. That
event was an organisational and sporting triumph. Despite scepticism
and press criticism in the build-up, the Sydney Games captured
the imagination of people in Australia and across the world.
That impact may have been felt particularly in the United Kingdom,
both because of the striking success of British competitors in
the Olympics and Paralympics and because of the comprehensive
and effective television coverage.
It must nevertheless be borne in mind that the Sydney experience
is likely to make a much sought-after event even more desirable
to many other countries as well.
151. If there is to be a British Olympic bid in the
foreseeable future, it will be based in London. A decision to
concentrate any future effort on the United Kingdom's capital
was made by the British Olympic Association after the successive
failures of bids from Birmingham and Manchester.
The Association, whose view is of decisive importance, showed
no signs of flexibility about the issue.
The arguments for a London bid rest first and foremost on a perception
of what will be appealing to the members of the International
Olympic Committee (IOC) who determine the venue for the Olympics
rather than on a conviction that, within the United Kingdom, London
is uniquely suited for the staging of the Olympic Games.
152. Since late 1996, the British Olympic Association
has been committed to an examination of the feasibility of a London
Olympic bid. The Association's initial study was expected at the
end of 1999, but was delayed by a further year following the Government's
decision not to pursue the option of developing an athletics capacity
A draft feasibility study was delivered to the Government on 15
December 2000. The study remains in provisional form and is expected
to change in response to the views of those consulted. The document
contains what the British Olympic Association views as sensitive,
commercially confidential information, relating, for example,
to possible sites, disclosure of which might, according to the
Association, distort land prices.
Since delivery of the draft study to the Department, the document
has also been made available to the Mayor of London. We have also
received a copy of the draft study. We will respect absolutely
the confidentiality of the document, although we note that the
Minister for Sport questioned the rationale for the restrictions
imposed by the British Olympic Association on public discussions
of its contents and we regret that the confidentiality has not
been respected by all recipients, because the contents of the
document have been selectively leaked to members of the press.
153. The decision to mount a bid formally rests with
the British Olympic Association, and indeed the role of the National
Olympic Committee has been enhanced by recent changes to the IOC's
The Association has now made it clear that it wishes to bid, but
that the Association will not allow a bid to go forward unless
that bid has "unanimous stakeholder agreement".
In the context of a London bid, both the British Olympic Association
and the Government define the key stakeholders as the Government,
the Mayor of London and other London agencies.
UK Sport and Sport England have not yet received or been consulted
about the draft feasibility study, although they have both been
contacted by the British Olympic Association with a view to such
We consider it essential that the views of these specialist sporting
bodies are central to the consultation process. We recommend
that, once Sport England and UK Sport have received copies of
the feasibility study on a London Olympic bid, their views be
sought by the Government. We further recommend that this advice,
insofar as it does not contain commercially confidential information,
be published before the end of July 2001.
154. There are various phases of consideration that
will have to be undertaken before a final decision is taken on
any Olympic bid. In the first instance, as both Mr Clegg and the
Secretary of State noted, the outcome of the 2008 bidding process
in July this year will have to be known. It is accepted that there
would be little point in bidding for the 2012 Games if the Games
of both 2004 and 2008 are to be held in Europe.
Nevertheless, some of the issues examined during our inquiry will
need to be tackled at some stage if progress is to be made on
consideration of a London bid for a later date.
155. If a London bid is to be made for the 2012 Olympics,
there is a clear timetable that must be adhered to: in particular,
a formal bid must be announced by February 2004.
The British Olympic Association stressed that the first deadlines
for this process were "fast approaching", but Mr Clegg
said that the Association was "a long way" from a decision
on a bid, and that there was a great deal of work still to do.
It would be wrong for the British Olympic Association, the
Government and other agencies involved to decide in haste whether
or not to bid for the Olympics in 2012 and then to repent at leisure.
For this reason, our conclusions in this section are not couched
in terms of definitive recommendations, but seek to identify the
issues that must be considered and discussed fully before a decision
on a bid is reached.
156. The first issue that must be clarified is the
rationale for bidding. The staging of the Olympic Games can certainly
bring sporting benefits, in terms of encouraging investment in
elite performance, motivating participants from the home nation
and inspiring participation in sport.
The staging of the Olympic Games in this country would, as the
Minister for Sport noted, also move sport up the national agenda.
The sporting benefits of the Games are properly the primary consideration
of a National Olympic Committee.
157. However great the sporting benefits, the commitment
required for the Olympic Games needs a broader rationale. There
is evidence that the staging of the Olympics can provide an opportunity
for regeneration and bring economic gain, as well as offering
less tangible benefits.
Nevertheless, such gains can be neither guaranteed nor taken for
granted. The success of Atlanta was certainly not as unalloyed
as that of Barcelona or Sydney. Professor Tomlinson was sceptical
about whether the Olympics would bring real benefits to London,
in part because London is already established as a city of world
Moreover, judged purely on tourism grounds, a London Games might
be held to run contrary to the strategy referred to by Mr McCartney
to attract tourists to areas of the United Kingdom outside London.
158. In Australia we were reminded of the importance
of a clear focus on long-term aims at an early stage.
In Manchester, we were encouraged to learn of the strategy to
use the Commonwealth Games as part of the long-term regeneration
of East Manchester, the City as a whole and the North West of
Those long-term opportunities must be examined before rather than
after a bid is made.
159. We recommend that the Government set out
in advance of any decision to bid for the Olympic Games its assessment
of the rationale for any bidboth sporting and non-sportingand
the objectives that would be sought from the staging of the Games.
This assessment must be clearly focused on a specific analysis
on the rationale for London and the United Kingdom and not simply
rely on telling good news stories from previous Olympic Games.
It must also explain the Government's strategy to ensure that
any London Games have enduring economic, social and regenerative
160. Full consideration of the case for a London
Olympic bid is dependent upon a prior decision on whether to concentrate
the proposed Games in West or East London. The need for a prior
decision on this issue arises from the view that "all sporting
facilities should be within thirty minutes' commuting distance
of the Olympic village".
The Mayor of London has given a personal "commitment to bring
an Olympic Games to East London".
Sir Rodney Walker suggested that the British Olympic Association
was also inclined towards sites in East London, although the British
Olympic Association's draft feasibility study gives full consideration
to both West London and East London options.
Even though a London Olympic Games are not likely to be as concentrated
on one site as was the case in Sydney, it will be important, at
an early stage, to identify sites and preserve the opportunity
to develop them.
In identifying any such sites, the Government must respond to
the legitimate points made in respect of the use of Wembley as
a central Olympic location that identification of a site might
blight regeneration and that sporting development might not be
compatible with high-density, mixed development ambitions for
deprived areas. We recommend that the Government make its views
known on where in London an Olympic bid should be concentrated
well in advance of a decision to bid. In doing so, the Government
must respond explicitly to the challenge of preserving the opportunity
to stage the Games on identified sites while not jeopardising
the opportunity for appropriate regenerative development of that
161. The sporting facilities available for a London
Olympic Games and those that would need to be developed would
only be apparent once a decision to concentrate on East or West
London were made.
Nevertheless, as matters stand, it is hard to envisage that London
can currently offer a similar degree of preparedness as Athens,
where 74 per cent of facilities were said to be in place before
the Games were awarded, or Paris, where over half of the facilities
for the Games are considered by the IOC to have been already built.
In some cases, temporary provision may be required or justified,
but the IOC is thought likely to look favourably upon bids where
facilities are already in place and have established their long-term
The near-scandalous absence of international competition-standard
swimming facilities in the United Kingdom's capital is one example
of how far short London currently falls.
We recommend that, as soon as possible after a decision on
sites in London and in advance of any decision to bid, the Government
publish an assessment of the facilities for a London Olympic bid
including (a) those that ought to be developed as a priority regardless
of whether London is awarded the Olympic Games, (b) those that
would be developed as permanent facilities with a viable long-term
use in the event of London being awarded the Olympic Games, and
(c) those that would be built on a temporary basis for a London
Olympic Games with no long-term legacy. For each facility, the
Government should also specify the likely sources of funding.
162. We would expect such an assessment to give particularly
careful attention to proposals for the main Stadium for a London
Olympic Games. Although a direct public investment of nearly £200
million is envisaged in major stadia for football, rugby league
and athletics at Wembley and Picketts Lockwith accompanying
infrastructure costs of a similar orderneither of these
stadia is deemed by the Government or the British Olympic Association
suitable as the Olympic Stadium.
Mr Clegg conceded that it was now unlikely that a separate Olympic
Stadium would be built unless London was successful in an Olympic
He also accepted that, in this country, involvement of football
was almost essential to ensuring the long-term viability of a
large capacity stadium.
Any such Stadium will thus face similar design challenges to those
confronted by the designers of Wembley National Stadium.
The Government considers it to be clear that, if the United Kingdom
is "to mount a bid [for the Olympics] with a realistic chance
of success, we must do so with a stadium which offers comparable,
or better, quality" of sight-lines to those offered by the
stadia for the Atlanta and Sydney Olympics.
We recommend that, in advance of any decision to bid for the
Olympics, the Government set out its proposals for a Stadium for
a London Olympic Games. These proposals must be specific about
the site, the funding arrangements for both the Stadium itself
and the surrounding infrastructure, the proposed design concept
for the Stadium and arrangements to ensure the long-term use and
viability of the Stadium.
163. Transport has assumed great importance for the
Olympics, as a factor in the perceived failings of the Atlanta
Games, as a strength of the Sydney Games and as an element in
the assessment of bids. The costs of necessary changes to transport
and infrastructure are likely to outweigh the direct costs for
the sporting elements of the Games.
The Corporation of London has raised doubts about the capacity
of London's transport system to cope with certain sporting events.
The Olympic Games can be seen as an opportunity to improve London's
transport system and general infrastructure,
but an Olympic bid might well be judged on the infrastructure
as it then appears. We recommend that, in advance of any decision
to bid, the Government publish an assessment of the transport
and wider infrastructure changes required if London is to stage
the Olympic Games, clearly distinguishing between investment that
would be justified on other grounds and costs that would be specific
to the Games.
164. A recurring theme in this consideration of the
issues to be analysed before a decision is made on a London Olympic
bid has been that of cost. The British Olympic Association observed
somewhat euphemistically that "budgeting and accounting sensibly
for the costs and revenues associated with bidding for and staging
an Olympic Games is [sic] a unique challenge".
Olympic budgets are formulated well in advance of the event and
require considerable change to reflect circumstances at the time
of the Games.
The illusion of profitability of the Olympics is usually created
by the simple expedient of ensuring that the majority of costs
are met directly by Governments rather than by the organising
The British Olympic Association implied in its evidence that a
full financial assessment had to precede a decision on whether
or not to bid.
Such an assessment must examine both the costs of a bid and the
sources of funding to meet those costs. The Games would involve
sums beyond the current Lottery sports funds and much of the necessary
expenditure may not be attractive for private investors. We
recommend that the Government commission and publish an independent
analysis of the likely total cost of a London Olympic Games in
advance of a decision to bid. Publication of this analysis should
be accompanied by a statement from the Government about the extent
of the Exchequer commitment both to meet these costs and to underwrite
165. We have previously argued that the Government
must have a prominent role in the decision-making process about
a bid and a clearly-defined role in bidding for and in the staging
of any Olympic Games in this country.
The Secretary of State accepted that a bid would require "a
very close partnership between the British Olympic Association,
the host city and the Government".
There will be important contributions to be made by the British
Olympic Association and by the Mayor of London and the Greater
London Authority, but the main funding burden is likely to fall
on the Government. If the Government is to pay the piper, the
Government must call the tune. For the Sydney Olympic Games, a
Minister in the New South Wales Government was designated as Minister
for the Olympics and chaired the Organising Committee. We consider
it essential that any London Olympic bidand the organisation
of any subsequent London Olympic Gamesmust be led by a
Minister with direct budgetary control and consequent political
responsibility and accountability. The Government cannot be at
arm's length from these processes. If the Government is not prepared
to accept the ultimate responsibility implied by this approach,
it should not embark upon the venture.
166. In making the commitments to Government investment
and to Government leadership that we see as essential to success,
Ministers must be prepared to tackle legitimate concerns about
equity. The Government has a general policy that "there should
be an equitable spread of [sporting] facilities nationwide",
but argues that the need to stage events might justify departures
from this general policy.
The Secretary of State said that he "would not want to see
any of [the] existing streams of commitment to the development
of the sporting infrastructure of this country being disadvantaged
in any way because we had decided to move ahead with an Olympic
This is a welcome statement, but does not tackle the wider problem
about equity. We recommend that, in advance of any decision
to bid, the Government explain how it proposes to ensure that
the massive investment in London's sporting infrastructure implied
by a London Olympic Games is reconciled with the Government's
general commitment to an equitable spread of facilities. We further
recommend that the Government explain how it proposes to ensure
that concentration on elite facilities will not lead to a neglect
of investment in community facilities in London.
167. There is now a joint bidding process for the
Olympic and Paralympic Games, with the latter staged in the same
city as the former shortly afterwards.
The Paralympics have been likened in scale to the Commonwealth
British teams have a distinguished record of success in the Paralympic
The British Olympic Association has made a welcome commitment
to ensuring that the Paralympic dimension is integrated in its
Should there be a London Olympic bid, we recommend that the
Government establish as one of its priorities that plans for the
Paralympic Games represent an integrated and prominent aspect
of such a bid.
168. Following the scandals about the Olympic bidding
process that broke late in 1998, the Government stated that its
support for a British Olympic bid would "depend on the introduction
by the IOC of a bidding system which is seen to be transparent,
honest and can enjoy the confidence of all bidding cities as well
as the entire Olympic movement itself".
Since then the IOC has reformed its bidding process to prevent
corruption and to facilitate more systematic scrutiny of bids
on their technical merits.
These proposals do not go as far as the measures proposed by the
IOC Executive Committee and supported by the British Olympic Association,
but the Association expected the new process to be proved "to
be transparent and honest" and predicted that the procedures
would "enjoy the confidence of all bidding cities, the entire
Olympic movement and the public".
The Government welcomed the reforms and the increased transparency
of the IOC, but noted that the new procedures had not been sufficiently
tested to justify categorical statements and indicated that "we
will be paying close attention to how the new procedures operate".
We recommend that the Government state explicitly before the
end of July 2001 whether or not it considers that the conditions
for its support for a London Olympic bid established in February
1999 relating to the IOC's selection process have been met.
169. The policy of the British Olympic Association
is that "a future bid should only be made if there is a realistic
chance of its success".
A decision must accordingly be preceded by a critical assessment
of the prospects for a London bid. Professor Tomlinson suggested
that international sporting bodies like a "can do" attitude
of the kind so evident in Australia.
The "can do" approach is not always apparent in this
country, as the Commonwealth Games Federation noted:
"If the United Kingdom
wishes to be a serious contender for hosting major sporting events,
there has to be a change of attitude in the country. At present,
the image promoted in the press of any major event in the United
Kingdom is of a squabble over how much it costs."
The Chief Executive of the Amateur Swimming Federation
of Great Britain concluded of an Olympic bid: "Without doubt
we have the management skills and technical knowledge to stage
the event, but I remain to be convinced that we have the necessary
commitment at this moment in time".
170. Any assessment of the prospects for success
must consider the competition. There is already a strong field
for the 2008 Games and some of those contenders that are unsuccessful
this year may well go forward to bid for the 2012 Olympic Games,
building on experience gained in the current process. They will
be joined in contention for 2012 by a United States bid arising
from an internal competition in that country. Among European cities,
Paris might well be a strong contender for the 2012 Games if it
is not selected as the venue for the 2008 Games. The Paris bid
has already received high markings from the IOC's Acceptance Procedure
Paris has facilities such as the Stade de France, where the 2003
World Athletics Championships will be staged, in place. France
has a more distinguished record of sporting performance at the
Olympics in several recent Games than the United Kingdom and it
has been rather longer since the Summer Games were staged in France
than it has been since they were staged in the United Kingdom.
171. The British Olympic Association envisaged an
assessment of the prospects for a bid being made by the Government,
the Greater London Authority and the British Olympic Association.
We do not consider that satisfactory, because at least one of
those parties has a vested interest in a particular outcome. We
recommend that the Government commission an independent assessment
of the prospects for success of a London Olympic bid, including
an explicit comparison with other likely bidding cities. We would
wish to see the assessment undertaken if at all possible by a
team including non-British members of the IOC or of international
sports federations with appropriate experience.
172. The Minister for Sport rightly observed that
there needed to be commitment to the Games from the country and
she wished to see an open public debate on the possibility of
The British Olympic Association acknowledged the importance of
public support and made proposals for professional public consultation.
There is a danger that opinion surveys would show high levels
of public support that might prove to be only skin deep.
440 HC (1998-99) 124-I, para 141; HC (1999-2000) 164,
paras 146-149. Back
178, 395. Back
pp 137, 284; The Government's Plan for Sport, Department
for Culture, Media and Sport, March 2001, p 37. Back
(1998-99) 124-I, para 142. Back
204, 289. Back
(1998-99) 124-I, para 143; HC (1999-2000) 164, paras 22-23; Evidence,
p 140. Back
pp 142, 144. Back
542; The Times, 12 March 2001; The Daily Mail, 12
March 2001. Back
pp 138-139; Q 326. Back
pp 137, 140; Q 293. Back
pp 142, 201. Back
pp 160, 50; QQ 161, 333. Back
298, 470. Back
p 139. Back
pp 139, 142; QQ 293, 322. Back
p 137; Q 179. Back
p 137; HC (1998-99) 124-I, p lxvii. Back
p 140. Back
p 59. Back
(1998-99) 124-I, p li. Back
p 239. Back
60, 279, 290; Evidence, p 144. Back
pp 143, 237; QQ 282, 316. Back
(1998-99) 124-II, p 28; Report by the IOC Candidature Acceptance
Working Group to the Executive Board of the International Olympic
Committee, August 2000, ch 3. Back
284; HC (1998-99) 124-II, p 28. Back
p 253. Back
pp 143, 236; QQ 292, 294, 313. Back
304, 305, 306. Back
4686, para 13. Back
pp 257-258. Back
p 237. Back
p 145. Back
p 59. Back
p 145. Back
483 Ibid. Back
(1998-99) 124-I, paras 144-145. Back
4686, para 19. Back
pp 222-223. Back
Report of the New South Wales Parliament,
10 October 2000, p 6. Back
p 221. Back
p 146. Back
Deb, 9 February 1999, col 157W. Back
pp 138-139. Back
(1998-99) 124-II, pp 26-27; Ibid, Q 110; Evidence, p 146. Back
pp 201, 202; Q 553. Back
p 137. Back
p 223. Back
p 253. Back
by the IOC Candidature Acceptance Working Group,
472, 542. Back
p 142. Back