Examination of Witnesses (Questions 300
WEDNESDAY 14 MARCH 2001
300. Is the danger not the other way round:
that an obsession with getting the Olympic Games to this country
endangers our whole sporting policy in terms of participation,
getting success and all the rest of it, because that becomes all
that anybody seems to be interested in?
(Mr Clegg) I can assure you there is no obsession
within the British Olympic Association. We are working professionally
to develop this plan so that the other two key partners can decide
whether they want to come into partnership or not. Our focus and
passion is very much about elite level sport and arguably one
of the most difficult aspects in the bidding process we were able
to achieve in Sydney which is once again to put Britain up towards
the top of the medal table, because we will be taken that much
more seriously if we are seen to be a serious sporting nation.
301. Can I ask you lastly whether or not the
time may have come, with modern transportation and modern media
technology, when the concept of not just one city bidding but
even one country bidding for the Olympics is wrong, and maybe
we now could be in a situation where Europe could bid for the
Olympics and various events could then be given out over the different
(Mr Clegg) Obviously if you sat in Lausanne with the
International Olympic Committee you would not take that view when
there are cities around the world desperately vying to stage this
event. If you look at the United States' contest for 2012, they
originally had ten bidding cities that wanted the US nomination.
The United States Olympic Committee is very fortunate because
they can take $100,000 non-refundable deposit on each of the bids
to go through that process. I wish we were in a similar position!
Obviously I would not concur with that view; we would like the
opportunity of being able to stage that event in this country
to give Londoners the legacy that will come out of it and the
people of this country the opportunity to experience that first
302. But London does not really need the Olympics.
(Mr Clegg) I have to say that is not the Mayor's view.
Chairman: That is a terribly chauvinistic
attack on London so I will now call on a London MP, Mr Keen.
303. The British Olympic Association's preparations
in the Brisbane area for the Sydney Olympics obviously paid off
really well so I think you deserve the best congratulations we
can give you. It was a great result; you said it is the athletes
that count rather than the administrators, but it has been proved
in the past that athletes cannot compete without the facilities,
the money and the organisation behind them, so congratulations.
(Mr Clegg) Thank you.
304. Sorry to come back to the main stadium
but it is not too difficult, is it, to provide stadia for the
smaller events: it is the one national stadium that really brings
the difficulty. Is it not true that only professional football
can sustain a stadium the size required for the Olympics?
(Mr Clegg) Certainly in this country I accept that
that is probably the case.
305. We have been debating recently whether,
in fact, Wembley is suitable for athletics. We know that it can
house athletics with a platform at a one-off cost. If it is not
possible for any sport other than football to sustain a stadium
the size required for the Olympics, does that not really bring
it back to Wembley as the only possibility? No football club would
agree to build a stadium with an athletics track around it, or
a stadium big enough to put a platform in other than the national
stadium that at some point is going to be completed at Wembley.
Does it not bring it back to Wembley as the definite and only
(Mr Clegg) I think common practice around the world
demonstrates that it is quite feasible for track and field athletics
to live comfortably alongside football. There are a number of
creative ways that you can crack that particular nut, not least
of which is downsizing after a major event and finding a long
term anchor tenant maybe in the form of a football club looking
for a larger facility that they have at the moment. I would not
accept, therefore, that Wembley is the only option for a main
stadium in the context of a future London Olympic bid.
306. For it to be London it either has to be
Arsenal or Spurs or Chelseaone of the top London professional
clubs. Is there any possibility of any of them agreeing to have
a stadium with a permanent athletics track around it and, therefore,
lack of atmosphere?
(Mr Clegg) You talk about a permanent athletics track:
one could consider what is happening up in Manchester at the moment
where there is an athletics track being constructed in the new
stadium there for the 2002 Commonwealth Games that subsequently
will come out and be further sunk down to increase capacity on
a permanent basis for Manchester City's new home. There are a
number of ways you can be creative about this but all of this
presupposes that it will be a west London or east London bid.
That decision simply has not been taken yet, nor has a decision
been taken as to whether we will bid or not. There are a number
of fundamental issues that still have to be addressed, and they
will be addressed by the key stakeholders and not by the British
Olympic Association alone.
307. But it is the national stadium that is
key to a bid, wherever the bid is going to be. It has to be?
(Mr Clegg) The national stadium or a main stadium?
308. A main stadium and that is the key to itit
has to be sustainable afterwards. I know you just explained how
it can be altered afterwards but the amount of money to build
it in the first place and then to alter it does not compare with
whatever a platform would cost in the Wembley national stadium,
does it? The cost would be as high as building Wembley, is that
not true, in any case, so all we are doing is duplicating the
very high cost that Wembley is going to bring anyway? Is it not
true also, and you have stated already this morning, that we really
need to be able to prove we can do it by having those plans laid
very quickly. It has taken a long time to get Wembley ready so
how long is it going to take to get plans for a football club
or whatever to take that out as well? Would it not be more practical
to push ahead with Wembley than start looking elsewhere?
(Mr Clegg) I would be delighted if we could go back
and revisit history and make sure that track and field athletics
was an integral part of the national stadium right from the initial
design stages. We are now presented with a situation where the
option at Wembley is a platform which we deemed previously to
be unacceptable because of the inadequate sight lines particularly
in the reconfigured lower tier of seating. That is certainly still
our view and I think that is an issue that will have to be looked
at by the three key stakeholders. Quite frankly, if the stakeholders
determine that we need to go to the east of London, then I think
that completely rules out Wembley because all sporting facilities
should be within thirty minutes' commuting distance of the Olympic
309. Mr Clegg, you talked about your key stakeholders
and the relationship you want to build with them over the coming
years. You must be pretty disappointed that apparently one of
them has leaked your report?
(Mr Clegg) As I said at the beginning, there is some
accuracy in what has appeared in the media. Some of it is inaccurate
and some of it is totally inaccurate and I do not want to speculate
on where that might have come from. There is a lot more confidential
information contained in the report which fortunately is not yet
in the public domain.
310. I understand your reluctance entirely and
it is a magnificent report but, from our point of view, we were
presented with a copy of it virtually in a Securicor van and told
it must not go anywhere and then two days before this Select Committee
we see it plastered all over the newspapers. I would agree with
you having gone through it, and these are reputable journalists
who have written these articles, that a lot of what they have
written is so inaccurate and wrong compared to what is in the
report that they have been very selectively briefed. They have
had what I assume is a verbal briefing from someone and, whilst
I admire your reluctance to comment, the fact is that someone
out there is trying to talk up an east London bid when, in fact,
quite a lot of the venues that are written up in the newspapers
are not accurate venues, according to your report, for an east
London bid and the reports in the newspapers completely ignore
a lot of the conclusions that you have drawn in your report, so
they have not seen the whole report but have been briefed selectively.
That must disappoint you enormously; it undermines your position.
(Mr Clegg) Obviously I am disappointed. Each of the
copies of the report has an individual security coding on it so,
if that information is out there, then we have an opportunity
of finding out what the source was. I am not going to fuel the
speculation any longer; we are very serious about the method that
we have gone about producing this piece of work and we are very
serious in terms of the way in which we wish to take this forward.
311. As I said, it is no criticism of you at
all: it is a fantastic and very extensive piece of work. I managed
to identify one page which possibly a journalist could have seen
and could have drawn the conclusions they had. Otherwise, as I
say, I think it was verbal. When we had David Moorcroft in front
of us the other day, he acknowledged that the Mayor is not in
a position to sign off as a joint stakeholder for the 2005 World
Athletics Championships, and he has gone on record as saying that
he would not be prepared to commit that sort of funding on behalf
of the GLA. What makes you think it would be any different for
an Olympic Games?
(Mr Clegg) First of all, I believe he is in a position
to sign off on it constitutionally, legally and structurally but
I understand he has decided not to do so. Certainly the reaction
we had from the Mayor last week was exceptionally encouraging
and he clearly understands the implications for this city, if
we were to bid, and he shared with us the long-term vision and
strategic planning that would be necessary if we were to achieve
the Games at some stage in the future, and I was very encouraged
by our meeting with him.
312. In the bid for the 2008 Games, I think
Paris has already been acknowledged as having 53 per cent of the
sports facilities needed already in place. What would you say
was the equivalent in London at the moment?
(Mr Clegg) Again, you cannot really answer, until
you decide whether you are going to go west London or east London,
what facilities out there at the moment can be used that are sports
specific or can be converted, and what facilities have to be constructed.
At this moment, it is difficult to quantify that.
313. Picking up on what the Chairman asked you
about Picketts Lock, as you have acknowledged this morning you
were very largelyindeed possibly whollyresponsible
for the decision to remove athletics from Wembley, or certainly
very influential in the Secretary of State's decision. How close
an eye have you kept on this, and what level of involvement have
you had in the subsequent decision to build Picketts Lock, the
design, the planning and how the stadium is going to look? What
level of interest have you sought and achieved?
(Mr Clegg) You say that we were influential in the
decision-making concerning Wembley but, as I said to you last
time we came before this Committee, we are not technical experts
and we encouraged the Government to take independent technical
advice which was commissioned through UK Sport and a report was
produced by a company called Ellerbe Becket, and I am sure it
is that report that was more influential for the Secretary of
State than our own position. In terms of Picketts Lock, we were
included in all of the discussions up until such time that it
was made clear to us that, if we insisted on the Olympic dimension
being factored into Picketts Lock, it would push back the planning
to such an extent that the facility simply would not be ready
for 2005. We must not forget we have secured the 2005 World Athletics
Championships and it is very important for British sport that
we deliver it and deliver it well.
314. David Moorcroft when we pushed him about
a possible stadium use for Picketts Lock talked about having the
equestrian events there but, according to the leaked suggestions
in the newspapers, we are looking at indoor sports such as basketball
and volleyball. Now, as I understand it, Picketts Lock is not
being built with a roof on it?
(Mr Clegg) There is nothing fixed in terms of venue
selection for an east London bid, as I have said previously, but
you are quite correctmy understanding is that Picketts
Lock is not currently being built with a roof on it. When you
are looking for major facilities in the east end of London if
you were going to go east and if you were going to run a bid,
then you would have to consider those existing facilities that
could be possibly converted on a temporary basis that would then
bring them into play for an Olympic Games, and nothing should
be ruled out and nothing should be ruled in. We will need to be
creative and if there are existing facilities there then it would
be better as long as it is practical to convert themalbeit
on a temporary basisso that they could be used rather than
build new facilities.
315. Obviously one of your concerns about the
document being made public is to do with property prices and the
general view of how local people view something being built on
their doorstep. Since the articles have appeared in the newspaper
this week, have you had any representations or reaction from landowners
in any of the areas concerned?
(Mr Clegg) I personally have not. I was abroad from
Friday until late Monday evening so my first day back in the office
was yesterday so I have not had any, and my colleagues have not
316. But you have in the past held discussions
with landowners, and the report does reflect that.
(Mr Clegg) One of the challenges is that the Government
does not own huge stocks of London land. As every day and month
goes past, those privately owned stocks of land are whittled away
for other uses and that will be a challenge and is one of the
areas of discussion with the Mayor of London.
317. Can you anticipate a main Olympic stadium
being built without a successful bid already in the bag?
(Mr Clegg) In the context of what is going on in London
at the moment, it is unlikely that we will build speculatively
another stadium unless there was a major football club that was
considering a re-development of its own and was prepared to factor
in retractable seating or something like that. On that basis there
may possibly be a small amount of money available to assist with
that and I think that would send out a very positive message.
Outside that, however, I think it is most unlikely.
318. Mr Clegg, you mentioned a little earlier
in reply to a question from a colleague the sight lines which
you did not believe were very good on the proposal for the tracks
at Wembley Stadium. Are you assuming, therefore, that sight lines
at Picketts Lock, if it is ever built, would be significantly
better and worth the investment?
(Mr Clegg) This is now not an issue for the British
Olympic Association because, as I have said, Picketts Lock would
not act as a track and field facility in the context of an Olympic
bid but I have every confidence that David Moorcroft and United
Kingdom Athletics are ensuring that the sight lines for their
stadium, particularly in the context of a world athletics championship,
will be up to the required standard.
319. Are you convinced that sight lines in any
other stadium will be sufficient for Olympic events, better than
what was being proposed for Wembley Stadium?
(Mr Clegg) Are you talking about the main stadium?