The case of the shrinking olympic park

10 December 2007

The Olympic Games will only be taking place in five year's time. In other words, they are still quite a long way off. Yet, despite this fact, the cost is already rising exponentially. At £9.3bn, this is more than double the original estimate. And it is not petty cash. It is equivalent to half the government's 2007/8 housing budget.

What is more, everyone living in Greater London is being taxed to pay for these Games - to the tune of an extra 38p a week on Council Tax bills, which comes to around £20 per year - so far, that is.

Londoners - and particularly east Londoners whose neighbourhoods are being turned upside down for the sake of the Games, have been told that there will be great and lasting benefits to the local community and that this is why it is all worthwhile!

Indeed, Mayor Ken Livingstone himself, has reassured everyone concerned that even though Londoners are paying, the government and the Lottery are paying even more - £17 for each one pound contributed through the levy. As if "the government" and "the lottery" are not fully funded by "the public" as well!

This Olympic overspend - at such an early stage - is putting the government team in charge of the Olympics under pressure to make cuts before the real building has even begun.

So, we are told, the stadium originally envisaged for the sport of fencing, is now unlikely ever to be built. Sports minister Jowell explains that if the fencing events are relocated outside of the Olympic Park in an existing building somewhere, it will save £90m. This hardly bodes well!

At this rate, after one sport after another has been relocated outside the Park, one has to wonder what will be left inside? Will there even be a space for the opening ceremony?

Of course, the cost overrun is not bad news for everybody. Not at all. As it increases, just as it has in almost every single public project from the British Library to the Scottish Parliament, it will be bringing in an ever-increasing bonanza for the construction and other companies involved. And there are no prizes for guessing who it is who will be footing the ultimate, exorbitant, bill!