Friday, June 20, 2008

Olympian Inferno


Gee-whizz stats from the Olympic Park

The National Audit Office has just published its latest update on the 2012 money inferno. They highlight three major concerns:

1. Security budget

Unbelievably, three years after winning the games, and three years after Sir Ian "Bonkers" Blair bragged to Today listeners that we'd won in large part because his force was recognised as a world leader in security (approx 20 mins before the 7/7 bombs went off), the Home Office still hasn't got a security plan capable of being costed. The NAO says:

"In the continuing absence of a fully costed plan, there is not a firm basis for taking forward the wider security arrangements for the Games, or for making sure that wider security requirements have been fully reflected in the planning and delivery of other activities within the London 2012 programme, including the construction of the venues, transport and staging."


In other words, while the security plan is still flapping around, there's no way we can know any of the other major costs are right.

Brilliant.

2. Olympic Village

As we blogged yesterday, the funding arrangements for the Olympic Village are in melt-down. This report tells us the total cost will be in excess of £1bn, which was originally to be funded largely by the private sector. But post-credit crunch that's a non-starter, and all work so far has been funded by taxpayers. The NAO says:

"Given the uncertainty over potential cost pressures on the Village project, and the ongoing consideration of alternative ways to finance the deal, it is not possible at this stage to determine the impact on the budget for the Games."

Clear enough.

3. Legacy planning

Extravagant claims about so-called legacy were a key element of London's original bid. Yet no serious planning has been done, and cost pressures point to downsizing. But as we've blogged before, the organisers have to satisfy the IOC that they are delivering on their bid commitments. Pulled two ways - a classic recipe for faffing around. Planning deadlines have fallen by the wayside, and the NAO says:

"The continuing legacy planning could affect the assumptions underpinning the Olympic Delivery Authority budget and the specifications it has agreed with contractors, with any late changes impacting on time and cost or on deals negotiated with developers."

Yup, it's those pricey "late changes" again- a chronic problem with all public sector projects.

The NAO is doing a good job with these 2012 reports. True, they make dismal reading, but they are building up into a systematic and invaluable record of just how incompetent and expensive our grandstanding rulers can be.

PS Those gee-whizz stats really are gee-whizz... eg the amount of contaminated soil to be washed would fill 10,000 Routemaster buses, and the cut soil would fill 20,000... although, couldn't we just have had the Routemasters left alone to ply London's streets?

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