Examination of Witnesses (Questions 80
TUESDAY 16 OCTOBER 2001
80. Presumably, at the end of the 39 months anyway
there then has to be several months, as other people learnt from
the Dome, of getting the ticketing working and getting everything
working before you actually have a fully operational building.
(Mr Sheard) There is the very cautious
approach and there is the gung-ho approach, and we have had clients
who have tried both. Cardiff, that we designed, was a very cautious
approach and was a very phased hand-over; Stadium Australia we
opened with a crowd of about 80,000 and it worked brilliantly
on the first night. So you can take your pick, really, but most
sensible operators would tell you the cautious approach is probably
better when you are dealing with large numbers of people.
81. Going back to the decision about public transport,
it seems to me that for a national stadium the problem is that
everybody has to go into London before they go back out to Wembley,
whereas there are other cities where you do not have to do that
(Mr Sheard) That is true, and the fact
that you go into London is one of the strong points. That is what
going to a major sporting event is all about; you do not just
go to the event and then go home again, you go and enjoy the day.
Sydney during the Olympics was just an amazing place to be, quite
apart from ever going to see any athletics whatsoever. It is part
of the process, and it is becoming more of part of the process,
otherwise, as you were pointing out before, you may as well just
sit at home and watch it on digital television. It is that experience
that is important.
82. You have obviously had experience of many
different countries. I guess that one of the feelings of the public
at the moment about this whole process has been that Britain seems
to be terrible at mounting major eventswhether sporting
or any other kind of event. We are very good at doing funerals,
but we have already got the buildings built several centuries
ago. There does seem to be a problem. Is that a problem that relates
to political will, or is it a problem that relates to political
processes, or is it an individual personal failure?
(Mr Sheard) I think it stems as much
from not having an absolute end-date that everybody is focussed
on. When you win an Olympics and you have to build a stadium you
have a date that you have got to get it built by, and there is
nothing quite like having an outside influence to focus everybody.
When you have no end-date that has to be achieved then it is very
easy to kind of find a million reasons why alternatives can be
looked at and things can be procrastinated. Generally, what we
have found (and I do not think Britain is different to any other
country in the world, to be honestprobably, it is considerably
better than the vast majority) is that if you have an end-date
you have a clear focus and you have support. As we were saying
before, people get behind it, and make it happen. If you do not
have that focus it just kind of wanders on, and sometimes it just
falls over altogether.
83. I am sorry, Chairman, to pursue this, but
if you had one thing that you would like to change about the British
process of making these kinds of decisions, what would that be?
(Mr Sheard) I think that in this particular
case, in the case of Wembley, the process, the communication between
private enterprise and Government was not good enough right from
the beginning. I do not think anybody did anything particularly
wrong. I do not think that if you had your time over again we
would have designed anything differently, I just think that perhaps
there was not the communication there.
84. If it cannot be built in time, and you have
effectively said it cannot, why do we need to go to the huge expense
of building an athletics deck within the national stadium when
we will not be in line to get any major athletics events for,
say, ten years after the stadium might be built?
(Mr Sheard) If you did not have an athletics
event to put in there you would not build the deck. The point
is that the design as it was originally conceived has not changed
from two years ago when it was first launched. It could take an
athletics deck then, it can still take an athletics deck now,
and if it ever does get built it can always take an athletics
deck in the future. You would not build the deck unless you actually
had an event.
85. So what events could there be for us to go
(Mr Sheard) You can go for an Olympics,
depending on whether you are talking about your lifetime or my
lifetime, but if you are talking about the lifetime of the stadium
you could go for more Commonwealth Games, more World Championships,
Goodwill Games. There could be no end to them.
86. Is there the need for an 80,000 seat athletics
stadium with television becoming more prevalent?
(Mr Sheard) It is interesting because
there is often a reaction to that. Television is improving the
experience at home and, in fact, digital television is improving
athletics specifically. Athletics has a problem because most other
sports have a ball and there is one point of focus and there is
a narrative to the event, there is a build-up of excitement and
a climax. The problem with athletics is there is a whole series
of little climaxes which makes it very difficult to follow. Digital
television can offer some service there because it can focus.
At home you can make a choice of what event you want to watch
and what angle you want to watch it from. I think athletics will
benefit from digital television. I think that generally it will
be found, quite to the contrary of people who claim that improved
coverage on television and improved watching on television kills
the sport live, to be the exact opposite. The more people get
exposed to it, the more they get interested in it and the more
they go to it live. I think digital television in the long runand
I am talking long runwill prove to be a great asset. I
can imagine over the distant future that all of those athletics
events will get a larger crowd. The Olympics is just growing and
Chairman: Thank you very much indeed,
gentlemen. It is worth reminding ourselves that when the British
Empire Exhibition was planned for Wembley there were voices in
criticism saying that Wembley was too far out. Thank you very
much, you have been most helpful.