The 2012 Olympics: faster, higher, stronger ? or simply pricier ?
by Benjamin SAFAR
The full cost of the London Olympics will be over £9 billion. British tax-payers have thus added another adjective to the official Olympic motto, and are still puzzled as to who is actually going to foot the bill.
In 1984, Los Angeles was the only city willing to organise the Olympics. Twenty years later, it was a different story altogether : London had to defeat eight other contenders, the last of which was Paris which London finally overtook in July 2005.
The initial cost put forward by the steering committee was £2.4 billion. But this quotation was calculated back in 2003. Then, little by little, figures increased and currently the estimation is around £9.35 billion. Public works, infrastructure upgrades, rising security costs, and a controversial tax bill that had mysteriously been left out of the first estimates have all added up. However, with another 5 years until the opening ceremony, most think the final bill will be even higher.
Solving this financial conundrum will not be easy. Many Londoners fear they will have to foot the bill and they sorely remember that it has taken thirty years for Montreal inhabitants to pay off their debt for the 1976 spectacular ! The Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, who was one of the most active supporters of the project, said he would not raise more taxes for the Olympics. Yet he needs to find an extra £300m.
The Treasury which knows all too well that Britons are more often than not allergic to taxes, has yet to explain how it will pay for the rest.
An easy and somewhat painless solution consists in high-jacking lottery kitties. This can be done by organising special Olympic lottery games and/or by diverting more money from other lottery-funded causes.
The poor management of the Olympic budget does not look good for Blair's government. The lack of transparency has opened up a divide in the public opinion, with some thinking the Olympics will be a masquerade and others still believing in the project.
Sir Roy McNulty, acting chairman of the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA), tried to abate the mounting storm by saying that the budget, which has trebled since London was awarded the games, was now "realistic".
Ironically, it seems that the London Olympics will break at least a few records: they will be the most heavily subsidised games of all times, and potentially the most expensive games at that.
Sources: "Record-breaking," The Economist 17 March 2007.
"Olympic problem should not be too taxing," The Observer 18 March 2007.