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Simon Hughes (North Southwark and Bermondsey) (LD): I am pleased to have been granted this debate by Mr. Speaker; I could not have organised the timing better myself. I am grateful to colleagues from all parties and to the Minister for being here. I intend this to be a thoroughly positive occasion, because it is right that the House, at this stage, following yesterday's evaluation committee report, comes together to say what huge benefits there will be for Britain if we win the Olympic bid in Singapore next month.
Although I do not intend in any way to be unkind, I hazard that unlike you, Mr. Benton, I was not alive when London last hosted an Olympic games. There are some colleagues in the House, including my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for North-East Fife (Sir Menzies Campbell), himself an Olympian, who were alive then. I remember from an early age being excited by the Rome Olympics in 1960 and thereafter at every four-yearly interval. Having been enthusiastic about sport in general, and especially the Olympics and the Commonwealth games, I am aware that the Olympic movement can bring a transformation to the city and the country that hosts the games. I was lucky enough to be in Barcelona for a couple of days last week. Barcelona was transformed by the Olympic games, as Munich was, as Rome was before it, and as cities outside Europe have been.
The other thing on which I reflected as I prepared for today's debate, was that there need be no doubt in anybody's mind that Britain can deliver successful sporting events. The old Empire games are now the Commonwealth games, the most recent of which in Manchester was a huge success and a wonderful event that I attended on several occasions. There are other events in most peoples' memories, such as the World cup in 1966, or regular events, such as the annual Wimbledon fortnight, the test matches and FA cup finals. I have been privileged to attend the past two cup finals in Cardifflast year as a Millwall supporter and this year also as a Millwall supporter, although the team was not there. The London marathon passes through my constituency every year and some 60,000 people line the streets watching it.
When the Olympic bid was discussed, people were worried about whether there would be public support. The British may not enthusiastically say at the beginning that they will support something, but when the moment draws near they appear and are thoroughly enthusiastic. There is no doubt in my mind that if we win the bid, it will be a hugely popular and supported event. The projections for ticket sales, which have been accepted by the evaluation committee, are already well over 80 per cent. and I believe that we could do better than that.
This has been a two-year process as the bid has gathered momentum. There was a debate in Parliament in January 2003, and in May 2003 the Government announced their welcome commitment; then there was a fantastic launch in January 2004, which I, my hon. Friend the Member for Bath (Mr. Foster) and others were privileged to attend. The selection for the shortlist happened just over a year ago and the welcome
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appointment of our colleague, Lord Coe, to the position of chairman took place the day after that. Then there was the successful presentation of our bid documents, the good visit in February of the evaluation committee and, yesterday, the confirmation that the report says that we have all our ducks in a row. The report did not just say that; it said some extremely positive things indeed and I will presently select some parts of that document that seem not just to tick a box, but say that this is very good news.
I take this opportunity to thank those who have been involved. This is a huge effort and consistent commitment has been shown by a large group of people. I apologise to those whom I will, inevitably, miss out. I give my thanks and gratitude on behalf of many to the Governmentthe Prime Minister, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport and the Minister for Sport and Tourismwho have given unqualified support and enthusiasm, without which we would not have been able to make progress. Colleagues who speak for their parties on this issue, including my hon. Friend the Member for Bath, have been equally supportive all the way through the process, and that is important.
Ken Livingstone, the Mayor of London, has made it clear that this was something that could deliver benefits for London. I am grateful for that: it was not a matter of party difference when we had the mayoral elections last yearnor should it have been.
Mr. Mark Field (Cities of London and Westminster) (Con): I should be interested to know in what way the hon. Gentleman thinks that London has benefited so far. What gains have we had via this process? I know that the Mayor speaks highly of his links with the Labour Government, but have there been any deliverable gains and any real sense of a commitment from the Government, or has it simply been a matter of words rather than delivery?
Simon Hughes : It is not for me to act as a Government spokesman, but I can mention things that have happened that might not have happened, mainly in transport. The East London line extension decision has been made, which will link part of the infrastructure. That would not necessarily have happened, although it is a necessary part of the equation. The commitment to finish the cross-channel rail link on time, which predated the Olympic bid, will be a huge bonus in terms of bringing people in and out of the Olympic site. Most recently, there has been a general commitment to improve the transport infrastructure; that has been a collaborative effort and is the one thing on which the evaluation committee notes that a lot of recent progress has been made.
To answer the hon. Gentleman's direct question, the report said that there had been a lot of extra, pre-legacy work to which the Olympic bid had given momentumthe bid had been a driver and given additional reason for action. He and I know, as London MPs, that often we talk about London plans, such as Crossrail, that are in the far distance. I honestly believe that the bid has been an incentive for things to move much more quickly in planning and infrastructure and has required the Government, London government and other agencies to sing from the same song sheet. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will have an opportunity to pursue those matters.
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The British Olympic AssociationCraig Reedie and his teamand the bid team under Seb Coe are to be thanked, but five principal sponsors have also ensured that it has been possible and it would be unfair not to mention them as partners. They are EDF Energy, British Airways, BT, Virgin Atlantic and Accenture.
Mr. Benton, you will know that to get this operation on the road and funded means that there has to be collaboration with the private sector, groups, public authorities, Government and local government, individuals and this place. I am convinced that that has, in recent months, been moving in the right direction.
The acid test in terms of London's commitment to the Olympic bid, should it be successful, will be that London will make a major contribution to the cost of the Olympics. Does the hon. Gentleman support that and support Ken Livingstone's view that the council tax payer in London should make that contribution?
Simon Hughes : I have always supported that view and have defended it. How to meet the cost of a city bid that is also a national bid will always be a difficult question. I have said unequivocally that additional benefits will come to London in terms of legacy, venues and accessibility of venues to people in this city. Although many places around the country will benefitI was talking yesterday to my friend the Member for Loughborough (Mr. Reed) about Loughborough, which will be a training venue if our bid is successfulLondon will benefit more and should, rightly, make a contribution.
Pete Wishart (Perth and North Perthshire) (SNP): Does the hon. Gentleman understand the reasons why the London bid is less popular in Scotland than elsewhere in the United Kingdom and does he understand the perception that Scotland seems to be paying for these games and for the infrastructure in London? It is estimated that £70 million could be lost to Scotland in good causes and grass-roots sport. What has he to say about that?
Simon Hughes : I shall deal with that quickly in three ways. First, I have seen the figures on support in Scotland and, as my hon. Friend the Member for Bath confirms, they are not lower than in the rest of the countryon the objective evidence, that is not the case.
Secondly, history shows that just because one part of the country is a venue for games, that does not mean that other parts of the country do not enjoy them. I remember that the Edinburgh Commonwealth games were supported by people in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. We went to Edinburgh and enjoyed them, and they were a great event for the city; my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, West (John Barrett) is here. Thirdly, the legacy of the games will be everywhere, and the events will be everywhere. For
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example, the football competition will take place in Scotland and Wales as well as in the north, midlands and south of England.
I cannot believe that when somebody who happens to come from the north-west wins a world boxing title, the rest of us do not share in the delight, nor that when a young 17-year-old gets a silver medal as a boxer in the Olympics, we do not all celebrate. I cannot believe that when Kelly Holmes won a gold medal, people in Northern Ireland did not share in the rejoicing because she comes from Kent. That is not how this country works, thank goodness.
We should always be slightly less selfish. Of course, the games will cost something; the costs stack up, but we have to look at the benefits. One of the great benefits will be that the games will inspire lots of people to levels of sporting achievement and development that they would never otherwise have attained. The other day, Daley Thompson launched the schools pack in Tower Bridge primary school, on my patch. Those who are now 11 years old could be performing in the Olympics by the time that the games come to London. If a person knows that they may get a place in their national squad for something, that is a phenomenal incentive.
We have just appointed a new head teacher at St. James's Church of England primary school, Bermondsey, of which I am chair of the board of governors. Her son is in the sailing squad and I hope that he will encourage an interest in sailing among the children there. Those children may think, "Yes, I can sail for Britain and for team GB." That is a huge benefit, and Scots, Northern Irish, Welsh and English citizens of all backgrounds will enjoy it too.
Sir Menzies Campbell (North-East Fife) (LD): I hope that neither my hon. Friend the Member for North Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) nor others in the Chamber will form the view that there is anything less than support in Scotland for a national bid on behalf of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland for games that happen to be located in London, the capital city of that same United Kingdom.
My hon. Friend puts his finger on a very important point. The opportunity to represent one's country in an Olympic games held in that country has in the past proved an enormous motivation for many people to reach the standard necessary to be able to compete. In addition, as my hon. Friend rightly points out, the Olympic games give an enormous motivation and stimulus to many people to take up and become engaged in sport.
We have great debates about young people, disorder and antisocial behaviour. There is a very simple remedy for a lot of antisocial behaviour. We need to give young people positive things to do as an alternative. The more swimming, sport and physically demanding activity that uses energy there is, and the more motivation such
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young people have to achieve something, the more likely it is that they will not be distracted by other things as they grow up.
John Barrett : I wholeheartedly echo the points made by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for North-East Fife (Sir Menzies Campbell). However, a lesson can be learned from the Greece Olympics. Far-flung regions of that country feared that, as Athens was seen to be the place where the action was and where all transport links would be headed, they would lose out on tourism. Such regions thought that people might be tempted to avoid Greece because of a fear that the transport links would not be able to cope.
Simon Hughes : My hon. Friend has family links with Greece and knows much more about Greek issues than I do. However, all the evidence and predictionsI hope that the Minister will confirm thisshow that people will come as visitors and not stay in London all the time, although London has the capacity to accommodate them. Hockey fans would come for the hockey competition and might then go to Scotland for a holiday. Yachting or sailing fans would go to Weymouth, but might want to come to London on their way in or out.
There are all sorts of reasons why the rest of Britain should benefit. All the evidence is that the games would be good for tourism, jobs and businessand not only in the tourism and catering industriesas well as for sport and sport development. I am sure that that is the case. When the Commonwealth games were in Manchester, not only Manchester benefited. I am sure that the same will apply for these games.
Mr. Andy Reed (Loughborough) (Lab/Co-op): The hon. Member for North Southwark and Bermondsey (Simon Hughes) has already made brief mention of our conversation, but I should like to confirm the point. We often talk about the north-south divide and Scotland, but the one place that always gets missed out is the east midlands. Loughborough is the sporting capital of the United Kingdom, and has been the sporting capital of the world on many occasions.
The Chinese have already looked at the facilities at Loughborough university, and although they have not finalised everything, they have indicated that they will probably base themselves at a university such as Loughborough
Mr. Reed : Those universities are coming on strongly these days. Does the hon. Member for North Southwark and Bermondsey recognise that the issue is about not only the immediate holding camp but the investment that goes into the infrastructure? The Chinese would spend money in Loughborough and would probably be there for a month or so before and afterwards. The enormous benefit would be economic and social, but also sporting.
Simon Hughes : I accept that entirely. I have seen some of the sports teaching and coaching at Loughborough and I have been to Bath as well. They are already good centres, and their reputations and skill in what they do will be enhanced by those opportunities. The games must be seen as an opportunity for many parts of Britain other than London and other areas that are to host the events.
Let me highlight the really positive extra thingsthe super-positive thingsthat came out of the report. First, the location of the Olympic village is hugely convenient: 49 per cent. of athletes will compete very near to where they will be living, and that has not been the case at many previous Olympic games.
Secondly, we are very clear on the environmental issues. There will be a huge environmental benefit. One of the great, appealing things about the bid is how the environmental legacy has been thought through. In our age, we are concerned about such things; that legacy has to have an environmental priority, and it is right that it should. The evaluation people make it clear, that our air quality will have met the relevant standards in good time for 2012, that the whole planning operation will have minimum impact and maximum sustainability and that there will be very positive environmental legacies.
Thirdly, the evaluation people are clear that the budget works; they say that the budgeting process is detailed and meticulous, and that the assumptions are well supported and documented. Fourthly, they are clear that the ticketing revenue estimatesboth for the Olympics and Paralympicsare very good. I indicated the figures; the predictions are of more than 80 per cent. sales for the Olympics and more than 60 per cent. sales for the Paralympics already.
The fifth point is really important for London. Lee valley has desperately needed regeneration for ages and is the one bit of London to have missed out on all the boom and benefit. The games will transform what has been a grim part of London. Yes, of course there will be difficulty for some businesses, which will have to be relocated. However, creating a great new park with all the facilities must be a huge benefit to a part of London that will have many more people and much more activity in the years to come. Sixthly, nearly two thirds of the venues for the games already exist or are already under construction and planning, irrespective of the games. It is not as if we are a long way behind and scrambling to catch up. Wembley stadium, for example, is well on the way to being completed.
Seventhly, the evaluation people make the point that places such as Wimbledon, Eton and the new Wembley arena are iconic venues for sportlet alone places near this House, such as Hyde park and Horseguards parade. There are some very clever, imaginative ideas that are not about going to the traditional venues. Greenwich
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park would be a fantastic venue for equestrian events. The Dome, at last, has found a use, for which some of us are grateful.
The Paralympic competitors are now a very important part of the games. They say that 95 per cent. of them will be in accommodation within 15 minutes of where they will perform. That will be a symbol of an accessible Londonnot only in 2012 but afterwards. There will be enough beds and rooms, and they will be near where people will be performing. The health service passes the test, although we can come back to some of the other debates about the health service later. There is already sufficient hotel accommodation.
What is really importantI say this to the hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Mr. Field)is that we now have one of the best transport access systems in the world. If one considers the centrality of Heathrow airport and then adds in the other airportsGatwick, Stansted and City of Londonand the cross-channel rail link, one realises that the games will be hugely accessible for people coming in from across Europe or by air. Finally, the rail infrastructure is now in place.
Public support is growing. In a speech, which I commend, to the Olympic organising committee in January, the Secretary of State set out in summary the reasons why the games would be so good for Britainmuch new employment and business, increasing participation in sport and renewed enthusiasm and pride in our country.
London is the most cosmopolitan city on Earth; there are more Chinese here than in any city outside China and more Africans than anywhere outside Africa. A growing Latin American community participates in the life of London. It is a great Commonwealth city. People with different languages, backgrounds, faiths and cultures are naturally here. By definition, we are part of Europe; we have people here not just from the traditional nearer European nations but from eastern Europe. If people want a place where athletes from 200 countries will feel at home, London is now it. If people want a place that can demonstrate how sport transcends all the cultural divides, London is it. I hope that all those things will be taken into account by the International Olympic Committee members when they meet in Singapore. We can hold the Olympics very well as a human event and as a sporting spectacle.
There is a job to do, and I leave it to the Minister to say how we can all help the bid. There are suggestions about how parliamentarians, businesses and individuals can help in the last four weeks of the bid process. I guess that the most direct way is by bumping into members of the IOCproviding the rules are followedas it would be most useful to persuade them. I am sure that we can do it. The press today are very positive and I thank them.
We have been marked as having passed the test technically. I want this debate to be an indication that we are emotionally, spiritually and politically committed in a way that we have never been before. The momentum is moving in our direction. None of us knows whether we will succeed in July, but we believe, and we want the Olympic committee to believe, that we are ready to take the job on and that we will do the committee proud.
"The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well."
If one gets to the Olympics, as my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for North-East Fife would probably tell people, one wants to take part but it is also very helpful if one can win. While we are in the bid stage, the de Coubertin quote does not really apply. The most important thing is to do everything we can to win the bid and I am here with colleagues to ensure that it is known that the British Parliamentacross partiestakes that view. I wish all those involved every success in the four weeks ahead.
Derek Wyatt (Sittingbourne and Sheppey) (Lab): I congratulate the hon. Member for North Southwark and Bermondsey (Simon Hughes) not only on securing the debate but, as he said, on its timing. May I just allay the fears of those who live in Scotland and might be nervous by giving one or two quotes from Scottish people? Shirley Robertson, a double Olympic gold medallist, said:
The United Kingdom has a unique and rich tradition in sport and in the Olympics. In the 19th century, we gave the world tennis, soccer, rugby, cricket and even skiing. De Coubertin came here in 189293 to look at sport in this country because he thought that we had a lesson for the world. He came to Harrow and Rugby and saw competitive sport not between public schools but inside them. He thought that the best thing that could happen would be a world team championships. It is slightly ironic that the Olympics was never set out to be a team championships, but it is gradually getting there one way or another.
We must not forget that, although we think we created all the world's sports, France also has a rich history. It gave us the Olympic games, and the Jules Rimet trophy and world soccer tournament. They are two of the most outstanding sporting contributions that France has made. We are not just up against Paris; we are up against a huge French tradition in sport, which we sometimes forget. We had our first games in White City in 1908. France had its first games in 1900. We had
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our second games in 1948 and France had its in the chariots of fire Olympics in Paris in 1924. We are bidding for our third Olympics, as is Paris. That is an interesting parallel.
The Minister for Sport and Tourism (Mr. Richard Caborn) : In 1908 and 1948, the Olympic committee came to London and said, "Will you run the games?" This is the first time that London has made a bid. In terms of the Olympic movement, we have delivered in the past.
Derek Wyatt : I thank the Minister for that intervention. I shall not say that he has trumped my next paragraph, but I was about to say that before 1908 Vesuvius erupted and the Olympic games had to be moved from Rome to London. Nobody bid in 1948 and we offered and saved the games, because they would have been lost. We have a fantastic opportunity not only to give the games back to the country, but to do something elsedevelop the games for the 21st century. A lot has been said about attitude, facilities and regeneration, but there should be something about what we expect the spirit of the Olympics to be in the 21st century. I will mention that later.
In the marathon, the reason why there was a need to go around the track after 26 gruelling miles is not that we wanted to celebrate some fantastic finish for Sky Sports or the BBC, but that the Queen wanted to be under the tarpaulin so that the sun's heat did not affect her. It had to be constructed near the finishing line, which is why there is extra yardage. In White City in 1908, we had a swimming pool in the middle, which was frozen, and the skating was done there. That triggered the development of the winter Olympic sports.
We have a huge sporting legacy that we have given the world. A magnificent film was made of the 1948 Olympics. It was shot on nitrate and was wasting away in the British Film Institute library. It was saved by Taylor Downing and one or two others and has now been redone on digital. I hope that the Minister can persuade BBC3 or BBC4 to show it. It has never been shown on TV. It is a remarkable film about the groups of people; after all, it was the first time that the Russians had ever come. They did not participate in 1948, but given the cold war that had developed and the Berlin airlift, it was quite remarkable that they came. It would be a wonderful thing and a celebration to show the film on British television. It is remarkable because it shows a young man who was leading the British team out. The only thing was that he had forgotten the flag, which was in his car in the car park. That young man was Roger Bannister. There are many bits of history in the film that I think people would enjoy.
Mr. Caborn : That was the first time that any Olympics had been televised, and it was done by the BBC. The 1948 games are historic in that sense. They were shown to the world via television, live, for the first time.
The other thing in de Coubertin's mind when he created the Olympics was that it was going to be not just a physical games, but a spiritual and artistic games. Gold medals were given for literature and poetry. That has fallen off substantially, and I hope that in our bid we will look back again and consider whether it is appropriate to give a gold medal for poetry, music, digital media or something else creative; after all, a Nobel prize is given for literature. Why should those things not return and why should we not develop the idea in a way that has not happened in the past?
Yesterday's report was excellent for London, given where we were two years ago or a year ago. However, I agree with Mihir Bose, who said in The Daily Telegraph that we must be careful. The decision is not just between Paris and London, but between three cities: Paris, London and Madrid. I think that London and Madrid are the most outstanding in terms of regeneration, and if the International Olympic Committee is serious that that is the principal criterion on which it will judge the bid, there is no question in my mind but that those cities are the leaders and that Paris is not.
I commend the team that put the bid together. I will start with the Prime Minister, because what he did in Athens was simply outstanding. One could not see what he was doing, but he attended a number of lunches, dinners and meetings, as the Minister will confirm. The Prime Minister's terrific interest has continued subsequently, and not just because his wife is an ambassador. He has never said so in public and I do not want to put words in his mouth, but I believe that the opening ceremony blew his mind when he saw the coming together. I was at the opening of the Commonwealth games in Manchester and it brought tears to the eyes. It was amazing to see a fellowship of people from all over the world. I say this whenever there is a sports debate, but we must remember that there are more countries on the IOC than members of the United Nations, and that says something about the spirit of mankind.
Since Lord Coe has taken over as chair of the London bid, it has improved tenfold or fifteenfold. Keith Mills, Mike Lee and Alan Pascoe have also done outstanding work. We do not have a big bid team and that is wise. The excellence of the team is obvious and we should commend it. I single out Seb Coe. It was a surprise when he was appointedif it was so obvious, why did we not appoint him in the first place? He has done really well. He has managed the bid imaginatively and has put together a good team. I am slightly nervous about what we will do with him if we do not win the bid, and I wonder whether the Minister has thought of making him head of UK Sport, because he would do an outstanding job.
I want to ask two questions: what if we won and what if we did not win? If we won, it would be great if the opening ceremony, attended by 300,000 people, could be in the Mall instead of in a stadium. The ceremony could be a celebration. It could link all the cities that have held previous Olympic games. They could again have an opening ceremony so that a fellowship of Olympic cities could be developed.. That could be a 21st century model.
Main stadiums are built only for the opening and closing ceremonies, and that is a concern. Joseph Paxton designed the great exhibition in Hyde park in 1851 so
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that the Crystal palace could be taken down bolt by bolt. Every bolt was numbered, and the palace was subsequently rebuilt in Sydenham. It is not true that modern stadiums cannot be designed to be taken down. The cost of the Athens Olympics was phenomenal. Weight-lifting competitions took place in a building that can be used only for weight-lifting and for nothing else. We do not want that and we may be able to use a modern IKEA approach to building stadiums, similar to that used by Joseph Paxton in 1951.
Can the Minister tell us whether an audit has been carried out in each local authority throughout the United Kingdom for Olympic sport and its needs? My constituency in Kent has the largest local authority, and I doubt whether we have three facilities that are even close to Olympic standard for sailing or athletics. We should have many more Olympic facilities and I wonder whether our bid could be a spur to creating and developing more Olympic facilities throughout Great Britain.
I make a plea for my constituency of Sittingbourne and Sheppey. We like to think that we have the best windsurfing in the world and would like to attract windsurfing teams from around the world, but that would need a lot of help and thought. When we have won the 2012 bid, I hope that a team will be set up to help us to get the windsurfing and sailing events, because that is what we would like.
Hundreds of specialist schools for sport are being built and developed. Perhaps the Minister will explain how they will fit in with the Olympic system and whether they will have some Olympic responsibility in their communities for developing sports so that the whole United Kingdom is connected to that.
Simon Hughes : One idea that was suggested to me and which I support is that every primary school should have a sports coach whose job is to introduce professionalism and to ensure that what they have is linked to what is outside. Does that fit in with the hon. Gentleman's view of how sport is developed in schools in his constituency and the rest of the country?
Derek Wyatt : As the hon. Gentleman said earlier, the bid will act as a spur and I am sure that there will be more coaching. I have a difference of opinion about how that will be done. We have such good coaching in rugby, soccer, cricket and tennis, and perhaps the organisations providing that coaching should be used instead of PE teachers. We must resolve the tension and that is the way to do it.
I hope that when we next debate the matter after winning the bid, the current Minister for Sport and Tourism might be the Minister for the Olympics. What Australia did was right. It had a federal Minister for the Olympics in Sydney and a Commonwealth Minister in Canberra. It is important to have a committed Minister for the Olympics, although I leave it to the Prime Minister to decide whether that Minister should be in the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister or the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. There should also be a Secretary of State for sport, health education and young people, but that is another matter.
Turning to the more difficult question, what would happen if we did not win? I initiated Canterbury's bid to be cultural capital of Europe, although Liverpool won.
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Following that and the Toxteth riots of the 1980s came a new Liverpool. Another depressed area was Canary Wharf, where the old docks were run down and miserable. One man's vision hit both those areas, because Lord Heseltine saw the potential of Liverpool and Canary Wharf. We need some of that vision if we are not to lose the Olympic bid. Imagine how the nation would feel if we came second and how disappointed we would be.
Will the Minister reflect on how great it would be to have a global competition for a sports city in the east end of London? The Thames Gateway has substantial plans to help to regenerate the east end, but it would be wonderful if we could do it anyway. Let us go for a sports city. London needs it and the United Kingdom needs it, and it would be wonderful after the disappointment of Wembley, Picketts Lock and so on. What about a great exhibition of sport for 2012? What about a sporting capital of Europe challenge? We have no sports museum in this country and no central sports archive for film. Here is a chance to put those into the loop of making a sports city work.
I chair the all-party group on the Olympics. In the next day or two, all right hon. and hon. Members will receive a copy of the document "Backing the Bid". On 22 June, we will say good luck and goodbye to the bid team before it goes to Singapore, and on 23 June, we will be looking at the design and innovations of the bid. Those two events will take place in the House.
Mr. Mark Field (Cities of London and Westminster) (Con): I appreciate that it may be unfashionable to be anything other than wholeheartedly in support of the bid, but I am a sceptical individual and am always cynical when I hear politicians parroting a single line. Much as I congratulate the hon. Member for North Southwark and Bermondsey (Simon Hughes) on introducing the debate and salute the hard work of Lord Coe and his team over the past two years, I want to espouse one or two of the objections that have been made. A significant if silent minority of 32 per cent. of Londoners have concerns about the Olympics being held in our capital city.
Simon Hughes : The Minister will correct me if I am wrong, but that was the figure at the beginning of the year. The latest figures show that support in the country and London is now around 80 per cent. or just under.
Mr. Field : I am happy to stand corrected, although the hon. Gentleman would be the first to admit that on 5 May his party managed to obtain 20 or 22 per cent. of the vote, which is a significant and equivalent minority. I am not suggesting that all Liberal Democrat voters are against the Olympic games here in the capital, but it is important to put some of these matters on the record.
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I am a passionate sports fan; I love sport and I love the idea of the Olympics coming here. I am always very supportive of British sporting endeavours, particularly in cricket and soccer, but also in athletics and related fields. However, there are some salient objections that I would like the Minister to address in his winding-up speech.
First and foremost is the issue of cost. Many Londoners are very concerned about the notion of a blank cheque being signed by the Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, for the cost of the games. There is little indication that the Government are going to stump up the tab for what is, as has been pointed out, a national rather than just a London Olympic games. It has been estimated by the Greater London Authority that the virtually uncapped liabilities could run to £30 per annum for every Londoner for a decade or two to come. Indeed, there is no real sense that the event will be kept within budget, and history suggests that all Olympic gamesexcept for those that took place in America in 1984 and 1996have been massively hit by cost overruns.
Notwithstanding the report, which was positive, and the earlier comments of the hon. Member for North Southwark and Bermondsey, we have an extremely poor track record in the staging of large-scale sporting events. Let us consider the dome: the main criterion for the case against it has been the appalling lack of a legacy, in spite of all the warm words from this House and beyond during the last few years of the previous century. As for Wembley stadium, I am somewhat less sanguine about the financial implications of what is currently happening regarding the owners of the stadium site. The Minister will remember the Picketts Lock fiasco, and it will be very high on any charge sheet against a London bid when all is said and done over the next four weeks.
I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Faversham and Mid-Kent (Hugh Robertson) will later say a little about the treatment of some of the long-standing traders in the Hackney Wick and the lower Lee Valley estate areas. I have had the opportunity to go to the Marsh Gate lane site; it is clear that there will be massive disruption to many long-standing businesses there, and traders argue that wholly inadequate compensation is being offered at this juncture. The sizeable minority of people against the games feel that their voice has not been sufficiently heard. We will see: if Britain does not win the bid, their concerns will be largely academic. They are a forgotten but none the less very important community.
One of my other concerns as a London Member of Parliament and, until the election, as my party's spokesman on London affairs is that other regeneration projects in the capital have been left on hold to a large extent while the furore surrounding the Olympic bid has taken place. In particular, some important regeneration in the King's Cross area has effectively been put on hold for the past 18 months or so. We touched on the East London line, and soon the Crossrail debate will begin in earnest again. I suspect that it is not entirely coincidental that that Bill has its Second Reading on 20 Junesome two and a half weeks before the Olympic bid is decided.
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There is still no indication whatever of where the money will come for such a project. We wait to hear much more from the Government on the matter.
As for the political implications, I say as a passionate sports fan that there has been a certain amount of grandstanding from the Government. I was not in Athens, but I take on board what the hon. Member for Sittingbourne and Sheppey (Derek Wyatt) said about the Prime Minister's enthusiasm. It is a new-found enthusiasm based, I suspect, on the fact that the decision date on the Olympics was going to be in Julyin other words, after rather than just before the Olympic games. It gave him the opportunity to rub shoulders with our Olympic stars, although I suspect he thinks Fanny Blankers-Koen is something to do with the Dutch Eurosceptic movement, rather than the 1948 Olympic games.
I feel that there has been a refusal by the Government to turbo-charge the bid by making a firm financial commitment. Had that taken place during the past six monthsI certainly suggested it very strongly to some of the Olympic teamit would have made a real difference to our opportunity to get the Olympic games. I wish that the Government had put up the cash and made it absolutely clear that Government funding would provide significant transport infrastructure and other infrastructure projects that east London desperately requires, whether or not we get the Olympic games.
If London were to win the bid, the Government would need to display a hitherto lacking urgency to ensure that the capital city receives its fair share of resources if this bid is not to have all the makings of another national embarrassment.
Mr. Andy Reed (Loughborough) (Lab/Co-op): I shall keep my comments brief as I know that other Members wish to speak before we get to the winding-up speeches. I wanted to give a slightly different perspective on the matter as a non-London voice. I am a member of the all-party group on the Olympics under the chairmanship of my hon. Friend the Member for Sittingbourne and Sheppey (Derek Wyatt), who has done a tremendous job as part of what the House has done by giving its wholehearted support to the bid, despite the comments of the hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Mr. Field).
It is right that we bring some notes of cynicism to the table, so that we can work through them. However, where I totally disagree with the hon. Gentleman's comments is in relation to my involvement in the build-up to convince the Government to take on the bid. I saw that there was a great deal of reluctance, having been involved with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport during the days of Picketts Lock and Wembley. There was a great deal of resistance, and we knew that in order to succeed the bid had to have the wholehearted support of the Government.
The Government went through a very rigorous process of deciding whether they wanted to support the bid, and since they made that decision they have given it 100 per cent. support. The bid team and people around the world recognise the Prime Minister's commitment and that of the Minister and the Secretary of State. That
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has been crucial because in the past we have tended to miss out in bid processes because of a lack of political will and support.
I want to make three points. First, I briefly intervened on the hon. Member for North Southwark and Bermondsey (Simon Hughes) about how the benefit will be not just for London but the regions. I also want to talk about the role of volunteers, which is pretty crucial, and about some of the things mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Sittingbourne and Sheppey in relation to how sport adapts.
The current set-up is not sufficient to deliver an Olympic nation in 2012; we need to ensure that the administration is in place and that support for young people in schools comes through. People at school at the moment will be the Olympic champions of 2012. It is heart-warming when we see some of the national squads training, especially in places such as Loughborough and Bath, knowing that we are possibly looking at an Olympic champion, but we do not know which one it is in the pool or on the athletics track. That is the vision, excitement and enthusiasm that the hon. Member for North Southwark and Bermondsey talked about. We need to impassion the next generation because, if we win, on July 7, I want everyone who thinks that they have the potential to be an Olympic star in 2012 to have that vision for the rest of the decade; I want to ensure that they are enthused and are given the right support and training all the way through.
On the benefit to the regions, we have some fantastic facilities in Loughborough. We have the National Cricket Academy, indoor athletics facilities and a 50 m swimming pool. Loughborough is one of the English Institute of Sport regional centres of excellence, and quite rightly so. In places such as Bath and Sheffieldit is good to see that all three of the relevant Members are here, before I upset too many of my colleaguesthe facilities are among the best in the world.
Those of us who have seen the Australian Institute of Sport will recognise that the facilities in our cities are better because over a period of time the Australian institute has got to the point where its facilities are going slightly downhill. The crucial pointthis is where I would like to congratulate the Sports Minister in particularis that it is not just a question of the facilities, but of the people and coaching. The hon. Member for North Southwark and Bermondsey mentioned what we could do through sports co-ordinators and others. That is a crucial point, particularly in relation to coaching: we need the right person in the right place at the right time. We must be fit for purpose right across the board, so that from elite level down to the grass roots we have talent identification and we are pushing the agenda forward.
We have the facilities, and places such as Loughborough and Bath will be major holding camps. The teams that are put into the infrastructure will make a major investment, as was the case in Australia on the Gold coast. They will appear several weeks before the games take place, and if we grasp the opportunity we shall have an enormous cultural event as well as a sporting one. The whole country will be transformed by its enthusiasm for the Olympics, not just London but right across the regions.
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That ties in directly with my second point, which concerns the role of volunteers. I am very fortunate in that I chair something called the National Strategic Partnership for Volunteering in Sportwe need to find a shorter title. There are about 30 or 40 organisations that deal with volunteering in sport, such as Sport England, the Central Council of Physical Recreation, the Youth Sports Trust, UK Sport, and Volunteering Englandthere are hundreds of us. As hon. Members know, 26 per cent. of volunteers are sports volunteers, yet the voluntary sector does not see sports volunteers as part of that sector and sports volunteers do not see themselves as part of the traditional voluntary sector. This will be a golden opportunity. One of the strongest parts of our bids is what we managed to achieve in Manchester, where one of the greatest things was the role of volunteers. Even if we look at the profile of people who went out and volunteered to help in the games in Athens, we can see that British volunteers were among the groups most represented.
Although it has not been mentioned so far, one of the strengths of our bid could be the fact that people from right across the nation will want to come to London to participate and help by volunteering. We need to ensure that we get the infrastructure right for that. That will also enthuse people who, like me, may not quite make it to the 2012 Olympics in the sprint squadmuch as I want to maintain my athletic prowess for another 10 years. We can participate in all sorts of ways and people will get enthused by that.
Finally, I want to talk about how we are going to deliver the Olympic stars of the future. We have made great progress. In this job, we can always list all the reasons not to do things and listen to people who do that. I can find 101 reasons not to get out of bed in the morning. However, sometimes that changes once we grasp the initiative, as we have now. The more I think about the possibility of London 2012, the more enthused I get. That feeling wanes a little when I am not really thinking about the bid. However, I am sure that most Members and people watching the debate will have seen the DVD or the video that the bid team have put together. I do not know what it is and I do not know whether it is just me, but every time I see itI have probably seen it 20 or 30 timesI get a lump in my throat and the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. That is just from watching the Olympic stars, getting a sense of the enthusiasm and thinking about things that can be done to generate interest.
We must ensure that we have the sporting infrastructure. We have come a long way in the past five or six years, but we must make the step change that makes these things a possibility because, unfortunately, everybody else around the world is doing exactly the same. By 2008, the Chinese will probably be the medal winners in Beijing. Beijing will be phenomenal. We must gear ourselves up to ensure not just that we are competing against nations across the world, but that we are taking into account the fact that everyone else is stepping up.
It is getting increasingly hard to get into the medal table. We know that holding the games would increase our chances of going up that medal table, and it would be a shame if we did not have the infrastructure in place and the investment from school level through to the club link and elite level. We must ensure that that is available
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for everybody all the way through. I am sure that the Minister is very aware of that. He has been battling hard to ensure that we have the infrastructure in place. However, we would have to sit down very quickly to consider reorganising how we do things. We could use some of the expertise of people who have been involved in the Olympics in the past and drive through change, ripping out as much bureaucracy and administration as possible. I know that everybody who is involved in sport wants to see that so that we can get more coaches on to the field wherever possible.
I am excited by the prospect of the games. I love sport. In fact, I really wish I was in New Zealand watching the British and Irish Lions, rather than here. I am sure that there are many others who feel the samewe shared that last night. I wish the British and Irish Lions good luck. We must emphasise the British passion for sport. The hon. Member for North Southwark and Bermondsey mentioned that. I am talking about knowing that there are 40,000 people out there with their British and Irish Lions red shirts on cheering on the team, and about watching what we did in Athens and watching the English team coming back from the World cup in 2003. We have a fantastic passion for sport and not just at elite level. We will turn out in our thousands to watch the London Olympics. It will be the best supported Olympics ever, and I just hope that on 6 July the International Olympic Committee makes the right decision and gives not just London but all of us in the regions a chance to participate.
Mr. Colin Breed (South-East Cornwall) (LD): I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for North Southwark and Bermondsey (Simon Hughes) on securing a timely and important debate. I went to Barcelona in 1992 for the whole of the Olympic games and got hooked. I subsequently went to Atlanta and Sydney for all of the Olympic games except the last day. They were all very different and if the games come to London, I am sure that that will be different too. I did not manage to get to Athens, but I hope to be in Beijing.
I want to concentrate on investment. So much of what is said about investment refers to regeneration and investment in facilities, which is, of course, quite right. However, there is also a longer-lasting investment and legacy: investment in the next generation, rather than necessarily in regeneration. There are four clear parts. We should concentrate on being able to provide sports facilities and encouraging participation in sport by young people, who will be inspired by their own teams and by being able to go and see live sport, rather than just watching it on television. Young people might go to see sports that they have never really taken much notice of in the past. Encouraging young people to participate in sports is the most obvious point, but there are others that one can pick up during the two or three weeks of an Olympic games event.
There is the idea of supporting one's competitive team in a positive way. It is fantastic to see so many young people from so many different parts of the world coming to support their team and being there, even if some of those teams go out in the first heat of the first eventthat is not the point. The point is that young people from all over the
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world meet one another. The fact that young people are able to be at an event such as that represents a huge investment. Spilling out from that is a new and real sense of pride in the country. I certainly noticed it in Barcelona and Sydney, but perhaps not quite so much in Atlanta. There was a new-found pride in young people's sense of being there to support their country and their people. The way in which they then perceived themselves in relation to their country, and their perception of their value to their country and themselves, spread out into an awful lot of other areas. There will be a great deal of investment in young people, who will get a new sense of direction, pride and a feeling of being part of the country through participating.
On disability, the Paralympics, which have been mentioned, are probably one of the more recent greatest successes. When I was in Sydney, I was fascinated to see so many young people who had travelled there from all over Australia. That was partly because every single school in Australia was able to send two pupils. I do not know quite how that was paid for or arranged. During the Paralympics, every single school was required to do a disability project and again people were sent from schools to view the games. That was an inspired way of connecting young people to the area of disability. They could perceive people with disabilities very differently. It was very positive and inventive. The idea was not taken up particularly in Athens, but we may like to consider it if we win the bid. So, we are talking about investment not just in infrastructure, however important that is, but in our young people in so many different ways. That is a legacy that goes on and on. We see young Spanish athletes and sports people coming to the fore in lots of different sports, not least in the recent tennis tournament in France.
As a Cornwall representative, I should say that we hope that Cornwall will be part of this event. We think that there are great opportunities for providing training camps for the smaller teams. We recognise that we are not going to have the big teams, but there are a significant number of smaller teams that will want to have a training camp in a beautiful part of the country. There are facilities for sailing, but also for other sports. We can provide that sort of facility not a million miles away from London and other areas. Although Cornwall is on the periphery and although it may feel to a certain extent that it is not going to be part of the heart of the games, it will play its part. People down there will be able to see that Cornwall, like every other part of the country, supports the games and wants to be part of them. I hope that on 6 July we will get the win that we deserve.
Mr. Don Foster (Bath) (LD): I shall begin, as everyone else has, by congratulating my hon. Friend the Member for North Southwark and Bermondsey (Simon Hughes) not only on securing the debate but on its timing, which comes hot on the heels of an excellent IOC evaluation report.
My hon. Friend began by rightly praising a large number of people who have been responsible for getting our bid to its current position. In particular he mentioned the sterling efforts of Lord Coe, who, following on from the work of Barbara Cassani, has done a tremendous job, aided by Keith Mills and all the
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team. My hon. Friend rightly added his compliments to a wide range of other people, not least the major sponsors of the Olympic bid, whose contributions have been tremendous. He rightly, too, noted the crucial role that cross-party support has played in the bid. That support is referred to in the evaluation report.
Like the hon. Member for Sittingbourne and Sheppey (Derek Wyatt), my hon. Friend paid particular tribute to the leadership of the Prime Minister. My hon. Friend was right to do so, notwithstanding some of the slightly cynical remarks made by the hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Mr. Field) about the Prime Minister's motivations. The Prime Minister has done a vital job, and I think that his visit to Athens will pay huge dividends in four weeks' time.
The Liberal Democrats fully and enthusiastically support our bid for the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic games. We genuinely believe that if the bid is successful, it will leave an indelible legacy not only to London but to all parts of the country, to communities and to the entire sporting nation. To pick up on a point made by my hon. Friend, we recognise that if the games were to come to London they would be coming to one of the most vibrant, diverse and cosmopolitan cities in the world, with 200 different communities speaking 300 different languages. With our long track record of cultural activity, we would enrich the Olympic movement through the cultural component of the games, as well as through the sporting activities already referred to. Our bid is undoubtedly gaining momentum as we get closer to the final decision in four weeks' time, and it increasingly looks like a two-horse race between ourselves and Paris.
Parliamentary colleagues have made important and valuable contributions to the debate. The hon. Member for Sittingbourne and Sheppey, who speaks with such distinction on these matters, reminded us of some of the sporting history of this country, and particularly of the important contribution that this country has made to sport, with the introduction of games such as cricket, rugby, tennis and even skiing. He reminded us also that in 1948 this country rescued the Olympic games. The Minister added to that point when he noted that the 1948 games were the first to be televisedanother first for the BBC.
Had the hon. Member for Sittingbourne and Sheppey had more time, I am sure that he would have pointed out that this country can also claim to have given to the Olympic movement the Paralympic games. We made a major contribution to the establishment of that important part of the movement. In his characteristic way, he suggested several ways of moving forward. For instance, his idea of the fellowship of Olympic cities bears consideration. I support his idea of getting all past Olympic host cities to hold an opening night and of elevating the Minister for Sport and Tourism to Olympics Minister, and I hope that projects such as the sports film archive will be taken up.
There was one other historical point that neither the hon. Member for Sittingbourne and Sheppey nor anyone else mentioned. I hope that I am correct to say, as the Queen will be offended if I am wrong, that it is her diamond jubilee in 2012. That would add a little extra to our bid.
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The hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster made an almost ritual speech. He felt that someone must point out one or two concerns, and in representing some of his constituents he made reference to those matters. However, I was delighted to hear him begin and end his speech by recognising his passion for sport and his belief that if the games were to come to London, they would be a fantastic opportunity for the capital and for the rest of the country. I have no doubt that the Minister will pick up on some of the points that he made, but I can assure him that the dome and the Olympic bid have nothing whatever in common: one was a disaster, the other will be a huge triumph.
The hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster raised his concern about the financing package, yet the IOC evaluation document makes it clear that the package is robust. The vast majority of people who have analysed it feel very confident. Notwithstanding past problems, we have a robust package.
I was delighted that my sedentary interventions on the hon. Member for Loughborough (Mr. Reed) persuaded him to add Bath whenever he mentioned Loughborough thereafter. I am grateful to him for recognising that both our wonderful constituencies will benefit enormously from the Olympics coming to London, and for highlighting the fact that the games will benefit not only the capital but all sorts of places throughout the country. My hon. Friend the Member for South-East Cornwall (Mr. Breed) noted that Cornwall, too, was expected to benefit from the games.
The hon. Member for Loughborough also added to our debate a point about the important role of volunteers in the games. Yesterday I spoke to the chief executive of the Scout movement, and I understand that he has already discussed with the Minister the role that it, among many other organisations, can play in making the games the most successful ever. The hon. Member for Loughborough rightly noted that the games need to be used as a starting gun for improving sport in this country.
Richard Ottaway (Croydon, South) (Con): I am grateful to the hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Foster) for giving way, particularly as I was not present at the start of the debate. I apologise to the hon. Member for North Southwark and Bermondsey (Simon Hughes) for that. Will the hon. Member for Bath add his weight to the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Mr. Field) about the lack of compensation for businesses in the east end? I have a constituency case in which a guy owns the site where the main track would be. The London Development Agency is paying lip service to compensation. It has not come up with a decent package, and it has no alternative land.
Mr. Foster : I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his intervention, and I apologise to his hon. Friend the Member for Cities of London and Westminster for not referring to that issue. I noted that during his contribution
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my hon. Friend the Member for North Southwark and Bermondsey was nodding sympathetically. I know that he has a degree of sympathy with that issue, and no doubt the Minister will wish to pick up on it.
This country's passion for sport has not been mentioned enough. I chide my hon. Friend the Member for North Southwark and Bermondsey for saying that 60,000 people watched the London marathon. He is wrong, as the number was more than 500,000. There are 40,000 people watching the British and Irish Lions in New Zealand, and 90 per cent. of the tickets for the Commonwealth games in Manchester were sold. We had the largest number of fans at the Olympics in Athens, with 20,000 Britons over there watching. With the ticket pricing policy in place for our bid, we will ensure that our stadiums are full.
We have a huge commitment to our sportsmen and sportswomen, and I pay tribute to the British Olympic Association, in its centenary year, for the enormous amount of work it has done to develop and support Team GB. Support throughout the country has grown since the figures shown in the bid evaluation were collated. Support is reaching 80 per cent. in all parts of the country, including Scotland, although the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart) is no longer present.
In addition to all those people who have already been thanked, I thank the media in this country. It is phenomenal that our London newspaper, the Evening Standard, has backed the bid throughout. I am delighted that in all parts of the country, our local papers have supported the bid. For example, my local paper, the Bath Chronicle, regularly supports the opportunities that the Olympic bid would bring to Bath. There are many people to be thanked. We have an impressive bid. I hope that, on 6 July, we will hear that we have been successful.
Hugh Robertson (Faversham and Mid-Kent) (Con): I start by congratulating the hon. Member for North Southwark and Bermondsey (Simon Hughes) on securing the debate and on the style in which he did so. The subject is, clearly, important to all London MPs. As many people have said, it is also important to all those interested in sport in the United Kingdom.
There were excellent speeches from the Floor, including those from my next-door neighbour, the hon. Member for Sittingbourne and Sheppey (Derek Wyatt), who has done much good work with the all-party group on the Olympics, my hon. Friend the Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Mr. Field), who put on record a number of concernsthere is no point in trying to duck those concerns; they are real ones and we ought to meet them head onthe hon. Member for Loughborough (Mr. Reed), who made some excellent points about volunteers, the hon. Member for South-East Cornwall (Mr. Breed), who talked about legacy issues, and the hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Foster). Finally, as it is the first time in which I have seen him in this parliamentary Session, I welcome the Minister back to his post. I congratulate him on raising more than £20,000 during the London marathon for the Ron
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Pickering memorial fund. I wish him well in his endeavours in the next month in everything he is doing to bring the games to London.
Cross-party political support is a vital prerequisite of success when the IOC votes in Singapore, so I put on record again my strong personal support, and that of my party, for the London 2012 bid. I also publicly pay tribute to Lord Coe and the work that he has done, along with his team, to bring the games to London. As the evaluation report yesterday clearly showed, London has come a long way in a short space of time. It is thanks primarily to the work that Lord Coe's team has done that we are in such a strong position in this the last month.
Why do we all back the bid? Three reasons stand out above all else. The first is regeneration. East London desperately needs regeneration, in particular areas such as the lower Lee valley. That point was alluded to by many of those who spoke. The Arup report suggested that that regeneration would involve more than 3,000 full-time jobs in the east London economy, 4,000 new housing units, all of them on brownfield land, and a massive large-scale reclamation of derelict and underused land. That must be a good reason.
Secondly, there would be economic and, as the hon. Member for North Southwark and Bermondsey said, environmental benefits. There will be a massive surge in tourism and related services. Businesses will benefit. Many parts of the local economy, throughout the country, will benefit from the games. In Barcelona, the benefit was as much as £11 billion. Clearly, that is a worthwhile prize.
Thirdly, for those of us who care about sport in the United Kingdom, there is the benefit that the bid will bring to sport generically. Hosting the Olympic games is, as many people said, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to enthuse an entire generation, and one that we should not miss.
Having said that, it is the role of Oppositions to ask questions. I put four questions to the Minister. In raising the questions, at what I know is a particularly sensitive time, I hope that I am giving him the opportunity to answer them and, therefore, to strengthen the bid and provide reassurances. The first question is about compensation for businesses in the lower Lee valley. The evaluation report touched on that question. It raised the issue of disputes with local businesses about land acquisition. Will the Minister confirm that steps are being taken to ensure that the concerns of local business men are taken on board?
The second question is about cost overruns. I have no direct experience of the issue myself, but I am told that it was raised regularly on the doorstep in London during the general election campaign. Indeed, I would be surprised if that were not the case. The last two games, in Sydney and Athens, overran considerably. I know that the Minister has always said that a particular method of calculation was used for those games, but can he provide some reassurance that the budgetary limits set out in the candidate file will be met?
Thirdly, there is the question of deliverability. I am confident about it, but, in view of the fact that Wembley is one of the venues that would be used for football in the games, has the Minister received any concrete
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assurancesthat is not an unfortunate punfrom Multiplex that the stadium will be delivered on time and to budget.
Finally, there is the question of the tax take on the Olympic lottery game. This has been given particular urgency this week by the news that the Treasury is going to forgo the tax take on the Bob Geldof concerts. Is the Minister making any progress with the Chancellor of the Exchequer in securing the tax take for the Olympic lottery game? Will he confirm that the estimate of the lottery distributors£320 millionis fair?
I will be brief, because I want to give the Minister the maximum time to finish. So, I will just run through those points again and finish where I started. First, I congratulate the hon. Member for North Southwark and Bermondsey on securing the debate and congratulate hon. Members who made this morning's other contributions. Secondly, I pay tribute to Lord Coe and his team for the remarkable work that they have done to bring the games to London. Thirdly, in welcoming the Minister back to his post, which I do genuinely, I ask him to address the four points that I put to him. I finish by reiterating my strong support, and that of my party, for the London 2012 bid. There is no doubt that this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for all of us who care about sport in this country and, indeed, all of us who care about this country's standing in the world. Anybody who cares about those two things can only wish the bid well.
The Minister for Sport and Tourism (Mr. Richard Caborn) : I thank the hon. Member for North Southwark and Bermondsey (Simon Hughes) for initiating the debate. It is timely this morning, as it comes on the back of yesterday's IOC report. I also thank the hon. Member for Faversham and Mid-Kent (Hugh Robertson) for his kind words and I welcome him back to his job. I hope that we and the hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Foster), who has been extremely supportive, are successful as we run up to 6 July and the outcome of the bid.
It is an exciting time, particularly after the report from the IOC yesterday, which clearly put us in equal position with the leaders, Paris and, indeed, Madrid. I also thank the press. We politicians do not often thank the press, but I genuinely thank it for what it has done. We can see its support in today's headlines. We must make it clear that the British press is read disproportionately around the world. That is why it is so important that we have been able to convince it and that we have had a good dialogue with it. I thank it for its work.
I also put on record my thanks to the political parties, which is something that I will come to later. Even in the run-up to the general election, the unanimity of purpose on the issue held well. For those who do not know, during the period of purdah, the one thing on which we had continued action and support was the Olympic bid. That shows the support that the bid has got.
We are now in the last four weeks and what is clearly going to be an active part of the bid, as we head to Singapore on 6 July. While we bid for the Olympics, it is important that the Paralympics are not missed out. A number of hon. Members referred to the Paralympics.
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In 1948, what were effectively the first Paralympics took place at Stoke Mandeville. So if, as we all hope, we get the Olympics and the Paralympics in 2012, it will be the coming home of the Paralympics to the nation that started them in 1948.
What was pleasing in the report yesterday was that it showed that the work that has been done by many parties in the last 12 or 18 months has created a platform and springboard from which we can clearly win the bid. The decision is too close to call; there is no doubt about that. We will be going up to the wire on 6 July. When the decision was made in favour of Sydney, it was won by one vote of the 120-odd members who voted. That was how close it was run. So, it is a close race.
However, a difference came out in the report. Some would say that it was a criticism. I would say that it was a strength. The report said that one or two of our boxes were not ticked to the degree that Paris' boxes were. That is true, but our bid is probably the most exciting bid. It is the one that will take the Olympic movement well into the 21st century. It has married old and new. Yes, the construction is still going on, and we shall construct state-of-the-art facilities and transport. That is why those doubts were there. As I said clearly to the press, anyone who wants to vote for a modern Olympics with state-of-the-art facilities should vote for London; anyone who wants to vote for the status quo should vote for somewhere else. That is the strength of our bid, and where the differences are.
I pay tribute to the leadership of Lord Coe. We should also give credit to Barbara Cassani, because she set up the company, with some good, robust personnel. Seb took over when we got on to the shortlist. He is very good at coming down the last 100m, as he has done so on a number of occasions, on two of which he won gold. I told him the other day that the third time he wins will be when he comes down the straight on 6 July.
Yesterday, the evaluation report of the IOC gave a huge vote of confidence to our bid. I say to the hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Mr. Field) that the finance was, together with transport, probably examined more than the other chapters in our candidate file. That was, to some extent, due to the dome and to Picketts Lock. However, we have learned from our mistakes there. That is why the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport and I went round the world talking to people who had run the Olympics, asking them the simple question, "What would you do differently if you got the games again?" A number of issues arose from that, including finance. They said, "If you are going to run a bid, make sure that your budget is realistic, deliverable and has contingencies." That is why it is pleasing that, on finance, the report says:
"The UK government has guaranteed that it would act as the ultimate financial guarantor to cover any shortfall from the Games. The budgeting process is very detailed and meticulous, and assumptions are well supported and documented. The budget appears to be reasonable and achievable."
The report also recognises that London can hold a first-class Games, and the Olympics would live in our memories. That is an important part of the modern
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Olympics. The rings were a little tarnished at Salt Lake City, but they will shine again. What could be better than to have an Olympic park in one of the most famous capital cities in the world, which will be there for generations to come? If anyone wants to see a reflection of that, they should go to Munich. Munich will, unfortunately, be remembered for what happened there, but the legacy of the Olympic movement stands there in the Olympic park. It has stood there for many years, and millions of people who use the park week in, week out, have been reminded by it of what the Olympic movement is all about. That is what we would havean Olympic park in this great capital of the world.
We would also marry the modern with the world. Tennis will take place at Wimbledon, football at Wembley, and archery at Lord's. Athletes will perform in venues with a truly iconic background. People ask me about Wembley, which will be complete only a month behind schedule and within budgetalthough the line of last resort on Wembley is the Football Association, and not the Government. In another city just across the English channel, they were talking about where some of the events would be held but, to be honest, beach volleyball on Horseguards parade takes some beating. Imagine the Prime Minister watching from No. 10 Downing street and the Queen watching from Buckingham palace over St. James's park. We can match the Eiffel tower any day.
A previous speaker paid a kind tribute to my having finished the London marathon a few weeks ago. It is a fantastic marathon. People say that there were slightly over half a million people; in fact, I am told that there were over three-quarters of a million people on the streets. When I was asked what it was like to take part, I said that it was like running a 26-mile carnival. I set off and finished just outside Buckingham palace. I thought about the extra few hundred yards that one has to run, because at some stage in our history, the Queen decided that she wanted to add a few yards to it. I can honestly say that the citizens of London came out in their masses on a fantastic day. People gave us oranges; people gave us jelly babies. Three-quarters of a million people were cheering us on from start to finish. We are truly good at staging that type of event. No other marathon in the world can reproduce the atmosphere of the London marathon. It is absolutely superb. I was running with an American, who remarked on the fact that we were passing the London Eye and St. Paul's cathedral. People were running 30 deep over Tower bridgethat is half way round, the 13-mile markand they go past many other places and finish in front of Buckingham palace. It is truly a marathon that passes some of the greatest landmarks in the world. Some other events will be held elsewhere: the triathlon at Greenwich park, with the first partthe swimin the Serpentine.
We have also addressed the issue of the legacy of the Games. We have learned from our experiences. The Commonwealth Games in Manchester were a great success. The buildings there provide a legacyunlike other places in the world that have run major sporting events and have been left with one or two white elephants. I know that there was great criticism about the stadium after the closure of the Commonwealth Games. I had to defend it on Radio 5 Live. We ripped up
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the track and dug a couple of metres down to produce a stadium that now houses Manchester City football team. Its contribution to the regeneration of the east part of Manchester has been significant. The new Olympic stadium will hold 80,000 people, but has been designed to be downsized to a 25,000-seater stadium. Three swimming pools that will be used for the Games will be moved to other parts of the country, and two of the sports arenas will be dismantled and repositioned elsewhere in the country.
Mr. Caborn : I am coming to the hon. Gentleman's point now. He asks important and reasonable questions, which I do not want to be accused of ducking. There have been problems with the Lee valley park, although it is the LDA that is conducting the negotiations. I cannot get involved in those negotiations, other than to say that I believe that the compensation that has been offered is fair. The negotiations are continuing, and I hope that no business will lose out. I hope that they will be concluded satisfactorily. I must also put it on record that 78 per cent. of businesses in London's east end support the bid. Last week, 52 businesses from Marshgate lane announced their full backing of the bid, too. I genuinely hope that that matter can be amicably resolved.
I have explained the issues of cost overruns and deliverability. On tax take, I can assure the hon. Gentleman that all the financial modelling that we have done has included tax. I know that the Opposition have a different figure to ours, and I am happy for them to continue to talk to the Treasury. If they are successful, we shall have more money going into the Olympics' coffers. However, we have done our modelling on the basis that tax will be levied in the normal way, as it is on all lottery money.
I was in Kiev and Budapest recently, and I shall be in Poland later this week. When the national Olympic committees meet, I am always struck by the fact that we have put the athletes right at the heart of our bid. It is the first time in a long time that the athletes' village will be at the centre of the Olympic park. That has commended itself to athletes. It is important that we do that, because the athletes, who will have trained for four years and will go out to win medals, should be at the centre of the Olympics. With the answers to all the other questions, which have been very satisfactory, including on transportI cannot go into them todayI think that we are set fair. Let us hope that at about this time, lunchtime or 12.30-ish, on 6 Julythe result should be available here at about the same time as we get itwhen Jacques Rogge opens the envelope, we will celebrate a fantastic victory. If we do, sport will be back on the agenda, not just for the Government, but for the nation. What could we want better than that?
Mr. Eric Illsley(in the Chair) : Before the next debate, I remind hon. Members that anyone who wants to speak in the debate requires the permission of the initiator, the Minister and myself.
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