Examination of Witnesses (Questions 278
WEDNESDAY 14 MARCH 2001
278. Gentlemen, thank you very much indeed for
coming to see us today. If it is not an inapposite metaphor, we
are coming to the home stretch of this particular inquiry and
Mr Wyatt will stretch you a little with his questions.
(Mr Clegg) Thank you.
279. I am sympathetic to the idea of an Olympic
bid; there have been quite a few leaks during the last couple
of weeks which may or may not represent your full position but
we have also had presentations in the House by Ove Arup about
a bid in east London so can you just clarify which bids are which
(Mr Clegg) Mr Wyatt, there has been quite a lot of
speculation particularly over the last 48 hours in the build-up
to this presentation today. Some of the reporting has been accurate:
some of it has been less accurate; some of it has been totally
inaccurate. I believe that you have seen a copy of our report
and you will understand that there are elements of that contained
in the press speculation which I do not intend to fuel any further
today, but I think it is common knowledge that our report contains
both a west London option and an east London option and, within
those, contains a number of different options regarding possible
sites. What I would like to say is that there is currently no
Olympic bid and there are currently no firm decisions taken on
any particular sites for any particular sports or, indeed, for
any particular venues.
280. And the Ove Arup bid?
(Mr Clegg) The Ove Arup bid we are not aware of. Certainly
the work that has been undertaken by the four working parties
over the last three and a half years has concentrated on looking
at the sporting facilities, the possible sites for an Olympic
village, the transportation issues and the fourth area which is
now absolutely fundamental to a future London bid or any future
Olympic bid, the issue of sustainability. Regarding the Arup bid
I will invite David Luckes to comment.
(Mr Luckes) I certainly know they did a presentation
to the Thames Gateway group and I think that was something that
was fuelled by Arups themselves. They presented a number of options,
some of which are included in our report and some of which are
281. And they have had no contact with you?
(Mr Clegg) Not directly with myself. I do believe
that I was invited to attend the presentation to the Thames Gateway
group but could not go, and David Luckes attended on my behalf.
282. Sydney was a success; we saw it, as the
Chairman says on the home stretch or the last lap, in 1999 and
the impression was that it was almost contained on one site. The
issue with London is we just do not have the core infrastructure
for a single site but like London Gatwick and London Luton you
can sometimes annexe London to other places. Given that the largest
shopping mall is in Dartford in one of the ten empty chalk pits,
have you not considered London Dartford as a single site?
(Mr Clegg) The situation in Sydney, as you rightly
say, was very impressive from an organisational point of view.
It was fantastic for athletes to be able to walk from the Olympic
village to 14 of the 28 sites contained within the Olympic programme.
I think there is a very serious issue out in Sydney and Homebush
regarding the sustainability of those facilities concentrated
on one area and we believe that you will not see such a situation
repeated again for the foreseeable future within the context of
an Olympic Games. Certainly if you look at the sites in Athens
they are considerably more spread out and that is likely to be
the direction that the Olympic Games will go in the future because
of the whole issue of sustainability.
283. Sustainability is a big issue. In the end
it would take probably a Government grant, if that is the right
word, of between £3 and £4 billion to create a sustainable
site but if you had the vision it might be possible to move one
or two colleges out of London, like Imperial or University, because
you have the accommodation for the three or four weeks of the
Olympics but not afterwards and, if there is a university campus,
that would be able to take that. The vision has to be much bigger,
therefore. Where do you think the decision-making process should
be placed in Government?
(Mr Clegg) We believe that a decision to bid for the
Olympic Games will impact upon every department of Government
and as such a decision as to whether to support a bid probably
should be made by the Cabinet or the Prime Minister himself. This
is a major decision which will touch on every department of Government
and I think that the excellent reception we received from the
Secretary of State and the Minister when we presented our work
in progress report on 1 February indicated that that was the sort
of direction they saw it taking.
284. I might include the Treasury in that conversation.
When Trevor Brooking was talking to me he said he thought that,
to replace and up-grade all of the swimming pools we have in this
country, given that Australia has I think fifteen 50m swimming
pools and we have four and we got no medals this time, would cost
the local authorities £5.4 billion, and he could not see
that ever happening. When you look from our position and our perspective,
do you think our responsibility as politicians should be to up-grade
the local grass roots facilities first so that people can swim
so then we can get gold medals at some time, or do you think we
should go for the bigger elements where we are going to spend
a lot of money in one area but swimming pools are needed in every
(Mr Clegg) Dealing with the issue of the number of
swimming pools to start with, the figures that you quote I believe
are not correct. There are considerably more than four 50m swimming
pools in this country. That said, I will accept that there are
nowhere near the number that are in France or Germany. With the
help of Lottery funding we are up to about I believe 10 or 12maybe
1550m swimming pools in the country. There is not one in
London capable of staging major international swimming events,
and for an Olympic Games we would require four 50m swimming pools.
However you can be fairly clever with the way you crack that particular
problem because you can now construct temporary 50m swimming pools
which is going to be the model for the future of the Olympic movement
where you cannot sustain that number of permanent facilities in
such a close proximity. To pick up your second point, whether
we should be investing in an Olympic Games or in grass roots development,
the British Olympic Association would argue that you should be
investing in both; the two are not mutually exclusive, and there
are different benefits for investing in both grass roots sport
and elite sport through investment in a successful Olympic bid.
285. If you did a sport audit, I suspect we
need to spend £30 or £40 billion, and sport does not
have that political clout currently in the capital but that is
another issue. In your report you mentioned that 98 athletes got
(Mr Clegg) That is correct.
286. I asked the United Kingdom Sports Council
for the statistics and, apart from the actual medallists, the
personal bests were achieved by less than 10 per cent of all athletes.
Can you explain the difference between your interpretations?
(Mr Clegg) I am delighted to be able to give a plug
for Kellogg's who put aside £100,000 cash to be distributed
to those British athletes who performed personal bests at the
Olympic Games in Sydney. A review group reviewed all of the applications
that we received from individual athletes and out of those it
was considered that 98 had received personal bests and therefore
took in excess of just over £1,000 cash per individual athlete
which was matched by a similar sum invested in the sports club
of that particular athlete's choice, making sure that some of
that money went down to grass roots level as well.
Chairman: Mr Wyatt, I am afraid I am
going to have to move on. If there is time I will come back to
287. You stated that you will bid for the Olympics
only if there is a realistic chance of success. What do you mean
by that? Do you mean in the bid or what follows it?
(Mr Clegg) I hope I have been consistent in saying
that the British Olympic Association will only put forward a bid
if, firstly, it has the complete and absolute backing of both
the Government and the City of London in the GLA and the Mayor
and, secondly, if we believe we have a realistic chance of success.
We are not interested in putting together a good bid: we are only
interested in putting together a winning bid. We have been through
this exercise a number of timesmost recently with Birmingham's
bid for 1992; and Manchester's bid for 1996 and again in 2000and
we believe we should only enter this contest if we really believe
we have a good chance of success. It is a highly competitive environment
and we will be up against some of the leading cities in the world.
288. Who do you think should make that assessment?
(Mr Clegg) That assessment should be made by the three
key stakeholders not by any one stakeholder, and they are the
British Olympic Association, the Government and the GLA.
289. In December 1996 you decided, as a body,
that London was the only place for the Olympic bid if we got one.
Why not other cities? Is it full stop to anybody like Manchester,
(Mr Clegg) It is. After the failure of Manchester's
bid for the 2000 campaign, and obviously they lost out to Sydney
in Monte Carlo in 1993, we took stock of our position. We had
bid for the previous three games, or the three games that were
up for offer at that stage, and it was determined, having taken
advice from the members of the International Olympic Committee,
that only a city of London's standing would be capable of bidding
successfully to stage a future Olympic Games.
290. So what about London itself? Is it east
or west? What is the focus going to be on? Where is the financial
statement on these at the moment? Is there one? Is there any kind
of figure being put on it at the moment?
(Mr Clegg) There is no Olympic bid. I believe through
your Chairman and the Committee you have had an opportunity of
seeing the report and, as has been previously stated, the report
works up both an east London and a west London bid and I believe
that the decision as to whether to go for east or west needs to
be made by the three key stakeholders, not the British Olympic
291. How soon do you think an Olympic stadium
should be built? When should it start if we are to make a bid?
(Mr Clegg) In my opinion, it should have started some
time ago. With the initial design briefs for Wembley, we should
have shown the long-term strategic planning necessary if we are
going to convince the international sporting community that we
are serious about hosting the world's greatest sporting event.
Every time we consider a sporting facility in our capital city,
we should be factoring inor certainly not specifically
factoring outthe opportunity for that facility to be used
in the context of a future London Olympic Games.
292. So you think we are already behindnot
too late, but late?
(Mr Clegg) I think we had an opportunity with Wembley
and that opportunity has now been lost. What I am absolutely convinced
of is that, if we seek further development of sporting facilities
in our capital city, we must do our utmost to ensure that we are
not specifically precluding that facility from being used in the
context of a future Olympic Games. In Sydney, for example, I am
sure you visited the wonderful aquatic centre that was built as
part of the contribution to their Olympic bid. I believe it has
4,000 seats on a permanent basis but it was built in such a way
that they could extend it with the most magnificent temporary
facility to increase that seating capacity up to about 17,500.
That to me shows long-term vision and strategic planning.
293. So is it the Government that is dragging
(Mr Clegg) No; it is no-one. For reasons of which
I believe you are well aware, our report was not finalised until
the back end of last year: we presented to the Secretary of State
and to the Minister on 1 February this year and we presented to
the Mayor of London at the back end of last week. Decisions will
come out of those presentations. I think we are a long way yet
and a considerable amount of further work has to be done even
before the stakeholders have the information which will determine
whether they wish to bid or not, and there will be many opportunities
for any one of those three stakeholders to put their hand up and
say, "I am sorry; we can proceed no further", and at
that point no bid will be put forward.
294. You said to Mr Fearn that the opportunity
for Wembley has gone and Mr Fearn asked you about the potential
location of Olympic Games in London. Do you believe that Picketts
Lock (a) can be completed as anticipated and (b), if completed,
would be a suitable venue? If the answer to either or both of
those is "No", do you believe that a venue should be
built from scratch and, if so, where?
(Mr Clegg) I should start off by saying that the 2005
World Athletics Championships are very important to this country,
particularly if at that stage we find we are running a bid for
2012 because it is highly likely that the decision will be made
within two months of the staging of that event and, therefore,
we need a stadium that is fit to stage a World Athletics Championships
in the context of a bid. In the context of Picketts Lock and the
Olympic Games, it was made clear to us that if we insisted that
Picketts Lock be constructed in a configuration fit to stage a
future Olympic Games, this could push back the planning permission
to such an extent that the facility would not be constructed in
time for the 2005 World Athletics Championships. Having secured
that event, it is very important to British sport that we deliver
it and deliver it well. That is the situation, therefore: Picketts
Lock from a track and field athletics perspective in the context
of an Olympic Games would not be suitable. If, however, we were
to run a bid and if that bid was to be in the east end of London,
then Picketts Lock along with many other facilities could be used
for one or a number of the 28 different sports that are currently
within the Olympic programme.
295. Do you think it reasonable of the Olympic
authorities that, taking into account the numbers to be expected
for most athletics events in the Olympic Games, they should nevertheless
appear to require a very much larger stadium simply to contain
the number of people who would attend the opening and closing
ceremonies which after all, although they can be extremely enjoyable,
are not an intrinsic part of a series of athletic events?
(Mr Clegg) I believe that we have sent you a copy
of the new candidate city file or manual for bidding cities for
the 2008 games which interestingly, for the first time ever, takes
out a specific required number of seats for the opening and closing
ceremonies. I do think, therefore, there is a degree of flexibility
that has come into the equation. That said, we will be in a highly
competitive environment against some of the leading cities around
the world and we will have enough intrinsic challenges running
London in that we have to put together a highly technical and
competent bid and therefore we would need a main stadium that
would be fit for that purpose.
296. As this is the first time you have appeared
before us since the Sydney Olympics it might be appropriate, through
you, to congratulate all those athletes and sportsmen who not
only won gold, silver and bronze medals but also achieved their
personal bests during those Games. I hope you will pass that on
to the various organisations whom you represent. Can I ask you
this, however? Have you made any assessment of the impact of that
success in terms of the participation rates in those sports which
are Olympic? I accept it has been winter since and there are some
where it is not easy, but have you made any assessment at all?
Have you seen an upsurge in interest?
(Mr Clegg) I have seen a report that was commissioned
by United Kingdom Sport and no doubt they will prefer to answer
that question later on, but there was certainly a significant
upturn in the levels of interest of what will be deemed by some
people as minority sports between the period preceding the Games
and immediately thereafter. The challenge for the Olympic governing
bodies is to sustain that and to build on the success and to ensure,
as a country where normally we have a focus on football, apart
from the seventeen days at the games that interest is harnessed
and we can build on that success. I believe we can and I think
you have had a copy of our post Sydney report which indicates
that the challenge for British sport in Athens in 2004 should
be to be in the top eight in the world.
297. The sustainability at the end of the day
in that way must mean facilities and coaching. Is that not where
we ought to be investing our money rather than on big projects,
to ensure we can organise big games?
(Mr Clegg) I would argue that we are investing in
those areas already, and thank you for pointing out the success
of the team in Sydney. It was quite phenomenal. At the end of
the day, it is athletes who win gold medals, not organisations
like the British Olympic Association, but we very much hope we
played some small part in that. The Lottery, however, has had
a huge impactboth in terms of facility development around
the country through the various sports councils and in particular
through the World Class Performance Programme run by United Kingdom
Sport for the British bodies which have allowed the governing
bodies for the first time ever to go out into the market place
and employ world class coaches. We are now beginning to reap some
dividends from that investment and I have every confidence and
believe that that return through Olympic success will be built
on in Athens in 2004.
298. Can I ask you to make a realistic assessment
now of when you think Britain has any chance of getting the Olympic
Games, given that they are in Europe in 2004, Africa has never
had them, South America has never had them, and Asia has had them
once. When do you realistically think that Britain has a chance
of getting the Olympic Games?
(Mr Clegg) Of course, one needs to speculate to do
that in terms of where the 2008 decision is going to go on 13
July. If you believe what you read in the newspapers at the moment,
Beijing seems to be clear favourite. If the Games go to Paris,
which obviously is running for 2008 as well, then it is inconceivable
that the Games would come back to Europe again in 2012 having
been in Athens in 2004, Turin in 2006 and Paris in 2008. If, however,
the Games do go to Beijing then it certainly opens up Europe as
a possible area for consideration in 2012, but we are a long way
from announcing a bid yet, as I have said a number of times.
299. I think 2012 is very optimistic, personally.
As you say, it is possible but not probable by a long way. If,
as you say, you only make a bid if you think you are going to
win it, then to be honest with you I think we would more likely
be talking about 2020 as the first realistic chance of getting
the Olympics and maybe that is what we should be sayingaim
for 2020, it is a long way off, there will be lots of time to
develop the facilities, and in the meantime we can concentrate
on sporting success rather than on bidding for Olympics?
(Mr Clegg) Mr Maxton, I have read your comments in
the press. One of the long-term objectives I set when I took over
as Chief Executive was to see the Olympic Games back in this country
before I retired, and I retire in 2024. I believe that we have
shown some long-term vision and planning; we have been working
on this for three and a half years, and I do not believeand
this is somewhat biased and I hope it does not come over too arrogantlythat
any government or city, and you have seen a copy of our substantial
report, has got that amount of information so far before even
having to decide whether they wish to bid or not. We are taking
this project very seriously indeed and we believe there is nothing
that will move sport up both the political and social agenda in
this country like attracting this event back to the United Kingdom.