Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 40-59)


18 OCTOBER 2005

  Q40  Mr Evans: Clearly, millions of people will want to be part of the Olympic Games and will desperately want to come and visit them. Will your technology allow you to give some concessions, even for events like the opening ceremony, which you will have no problems selling out at all? Are you looking at some concession for people who are perhaps unemployed or other people on low incomes?

  Mr Mills: We have to be cognisant of European law which states that you cannot discriminate in terms of ticketing. We will be able to put in place programmes for certain categories of individuals. It is possible for organisations to buy tickets and offer them either free or in competitions or as parts of children's programmes, or whatever; that is perfectly OK. Once you have set the pricing of ticketing, you cannot start discriminatory pricing. European law, unfortunately, then gets in the way.

  Q41  Mr Evans: Clearly that must be made available throughout the world.

  Mr Mills: Yes.

  Q42 Mr Evans: Are you going to make fundamental changes between how it was done in Athens and how it will be done in London?

  Mr Mills: Technology will be the key. Clearly, the internet provides a huge channel for distribution across the world. Some of the techniques that have been used in the past we would like to try to avoid. Historically, ticketing has been done on an allocation basis. In other words, you allocate blocks of tickets around the world. We will be working closely with the IOC to see if we can improve on that. What often happens is that a country or an organisation will take a block of tickets; those tickets will not be sold or they will find their way into the system the wrong way. We need to be aware of that.

  Q43  Mr Evans: Will you have a policy to prevent a touts' bonanza in 2012?

  Mr Mills: Yes, absolutely.

  Lord Coe: There will be roughly 9.5 to 10 million tickets at the time of the Games; that is about 8 million for the Olympic Games and 1 point something for the Paralympics. Just as a small teaser of our thinking, we want roughly half that number to be out in the marketplace at about £20 or perhaps even marginally less. We are very aware that this needs to be a Games, as Keith so rightly said, that meets all our revenue and funding requirements but that is accessible.

  Q44  Mr Evans: Twenty pounds sounds really good, or whatever price it will be in 2012 with inflation.

  Mr Mills: That is not in the front row of the opening ceremony.

  Q45  Mr Evans: I can see that. At £20 people snap them up and put them on eBay.

  Mr Mills: That is precisely what I was referring to previously. If you can utilise the emerging ticketing technology, it is possible to stop those sorts of things, or at least minimise them.

  Q46  Mr Evans: Will you be scouring eBay as well to make sure about this?

  Lord Coe: He may not be doing that personally but I am sure that we will. There are provisions in the Bill to deal with that.

  Mr Mills: I happen to have run a ticketing company for a number of years. It is an area that I know well. The ingenuity of ticket touts throughout the world is mind-boggling. We will do our best to minimise the slippage.

  Lord Coe: It is a particular British skill throughout the world!

  Q47  Adam Price: On the last point about concessionary tickets, if we do have concessionary tickets in most cultural venues, it is because of the volume of tickets involved and it comes within the ambit of anti-discriminatory legislation.

  Mr Mills: I do not think it is an issue of discrimination but one of making it fair across Europe. I think it is a Europe-wide issue, although also a specific UK issue.

  Q48  Adam Price: We know that the process of awarding some of the construction contracts has started. Within those areas of expenditure for which you are responsible, the staging elements, when do you think you will be in a position to start to seek tenders for those contracts?

  Lord Coe: That is done through the Olympic Delivery Authority. Effectively, we are the client here. We want to take those facilities and venues on time and on budget, and we need them at the right point in order to be able to stage test events. That is a very important process at every venue. It is one of the things that did hit the timelines in Athens. We really do want the ability properly to test all these facilities. The procurement process throughout the Olympic Delivery Authority is very much in evidence.

  Q49  Adam Price: Then what about those elements which are not construction but the staging elements, things like sports equipment, furniture and catering?

  Lord Coe: Those are overlays.

  Mr Mills: LOCOG will be adopting a very similar procurement strategy to the ODA but the major procurement in LOCOG comes in the latter years, not in the early years. In the first year or two in the life of LOCOG, the procurement of services is really rather small. It kicks in towards the end of its life.

  Q50  Adam Price: There has been some discussion already on how to facilitate local, and by that I mean both London and UK firms, that want to secure some of those contracts. What can you do within the bounds of competition law to try and assist local firms?

  Lord Coe: If they are businesses that are looking to supply the London Organising Committee with the types of services we have just outlined, that will be a very clear procurement process and within the very clear framework of competition policy.

  Q51  Adam Price: So the major contracts will be advertised widely and invitations to tender across the country?

  Lord Coe: That will be the case at the specific points we need them.

  Q52  Adam Price: The Mayor has been quoted as saying that he will use expensive lawyers to adapt the interpretation of European competition law to guarantee the London input; for example, I suppose bring some contracts below the levels at which European competition law applies. That is one possibility. Is that something that you have discussed with the Mayor?

  Mr Mills: No, we have not discussed that with the Mayor.

  Lord Coe: We have not done so at this stage. He is appearing before your committee on 1 November.

  Q53  Adam Price: There is one final issue. The sustainable management system was an important element within your bid. Do you see that as a possible inhibitor, a possible barrier, for small firms in particular in securing contracts?

  Lord Coe: No, not particularly, but the whole issue of a Games times transport plan is that is effectively a public transport Games where basically the only people travelling in vehicles will be the Olympic family and the national federations. All those cars will be low carbon emissions. We have a waste management system available that really will be state-of-the-art. First of all, I do not think that will be a huge inhibitor and the world will have moved on quite a bit by 2012 anyway. Secondly, this whole issue of sustainability and the environmental theme within the bid document is again one of those areas that is taken a deal more seriously than it has in the past.

  Mr Mills: In fact, I am addressing a large group on Thursday of all the environmental interests in the country to ensure that we deliver on our promises in our bid phase.

  Q54  Rosemary McKenna: May I explore the remit of the Nations and Regions Group? I am certainly taking some comfort from the fact that Charles Allen, a fellow Scot, is going to chair that group. I have always supported the bid on the basis that it is a good thing anyway but that the nations and regions will benefit. Could you expand a bit on the Nations and Regions Group and say when they will be in a position to talk to representatives of the various authorities to begin the process of establishing where training camps and facilities, et cetera, will be?

  Lord Coe: Without labouring my initial point, we have always viewed this at its best as a UK-wide project. It was always my view that we would not get public support for a London Olympic Games unless we were genuinely able to show that there are UK-wide benefits—the soft and hard legacy. The issues that we want to use the Nations and Regions properly to address are those about sport and the promotion of sport, preparation camps, business opportunities, tourism, culture and volunteering, as well and our ability to have a co-ordinated approach UK-wide to all those things. What we did not want in the bid phase was for nine different regions and our many centres of excellence to start going out at that stage to bid for the Canadian team to go to Sheffield and for Scotland to take the Australians. We wanted to do this in a co-ordinated way post-bid. We did have a Nations and Regions structure, which was chaired by Charles throughout that process. It was very successful in helping us turn around hearts and minds on this whole project. Now there is a very clear area of work. Preparation camps are probably as good an example as anything. I am fond of telling the story: 139 countries based themselves in Australia in the lead-up to the Sydney Games. Belgium was there for very nearly three years. Craig Reedie, our IOC colleague sitting behind us, will tell you about the impact of team GB's presence in Queensland in the lead-up to the Games. Preparation is not an add-on luxury any longer; it is an absolutely essential part of delivering Olympians. Our contributions alone to the local economy were quite sizeable. I think that when the Australians did a final audit of costs and benefits, about $80 million was put into the Australian economy, accounting for teams basing themselves for that period of time. Something like that is important but there needs to be a co-ordinated approach. We have centres of excellence throughout the country. Sport England, for instance, has its EIS in Sheffield. There are academic-based centres at Loughborough, Birmingham and Bath. All these would look to wanting to host these teams, but it is also important, if you have a proper structure for the nations and regions with a proper representative from the regional sports boards or from the RDAs and local businesses involved, that this is a much easier process and a much better structured one. That is probably the best example I can give you, but there is also the ability for businesses on a regional basis to know where their pockets of expertise are and at what times we are going to need those services if something is locally organised. I went to an industrial estate in Belfast on a visit to promote the bid and was introduced to five people in the sports unit who provided effectively the bulk of the refrigeration needs for the Athens Olympic Games. There are pockets of excellence and expertise out there that really should be able to tap into a domestic Games.

  Q55  Rosemary McKenna: I already have businesses in the constituency which are very much involved in the bid process. I think businesses and local authorities will seize on that. I have certainly been encouraging my local authority to be prepared. One of the things that does concern me is the venues. Will you use venues outside London for specific sports? For example, Strathclyde Park is the best rowing facility in Europe.

  Lord Coe: We will not be using that. Actually, insofar as the Olympic soccer tournament is a UK-wide soccer tournament, on the basis that they are able to get the funding for the new stadium, we will be using the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff; St James's Park, Newcastle; Hampden Park, Scotland; and Windsor Park, Belfast. One of the issues for us at the end of the initial evaluation phase was some of the observations made by the International Olympic Committee that our venues, even within the London area, were a little spread apart, so we had to make some judgments. It is not unusual, of course, for sailing to be outside the host city. Weymouth is our preferred choice; more importantly, it is the International Federation's preferred choice, a world class sailing centre. The sailors amongst us tell me it is the best place to go. One of the issues we did have to look at was rowing, which you have mentioned. Eton Dorney is our world class centre. We looked at the possibility of having rowing a little closer into London. We thought it was unnecessary to build a second world class rowing centre so close to the Olympic Park, so close to the Olympic Games. Our watchword was really excellence without extravagance and it was difficult to justify two world class rowing centres within 25 miles of each other as the crow flies. For instance, we did bring shooting that was at Bisley into the Olympic Park at Woolwich Barracks. We brought fencing from Alexandra Palace back into the Olympic Park. Cycling came from Swanley into a velopark in the Olympic Park. We have made it, from the initial evaluation through to bid presentation, a compact Games. That is important because we do not want athletes being commuters, we want them being competitors. We do not want them spending hours of their day travelling between venues; we want them in and out safely. We are able to say now pretty much 80% of competitors will be within 20 minutes' travel time of their venues and 50% will literally be able to walk five minutes, not that most competitors walk anywhere.

  Q56  Mr Sanders: I doubt there is a local authority anywhere in the country with councillors who are elected by and accountable to the people which is not asking the question, "What can we do to help make these Games a success? What can we have in our area to take part?" Yet, in every instance they are finding that the decisions that are being taken are being taken by quangos of people who are not accountable to the people. Rosemary has just exampled that as an elected Member of Parliament who wants something to happen in her constituency and yet the decisions over that will be taken by people who are not elected. Is there not a danger there is a democratic deficit within the preparation for the Games and that is something that needs to be looked at?

  Lord Coe: The bid proposal was not put together by elected politicians, it was put together by a bid team, many of the people you see sitting in here, and we had to make a judgment. First of all the judgment was made by the British Olympic Association back in 1997 that London was the appropriate city to chase the Games. Within our own areas of expertise we had to make a judgment about the vision, how we delivered those Games and why we were doing it. I think on all those counts those decisions were made certainly not by elected politicians, they were made by the people who formed that bid team. That is what the International Olympic Committee accepted in Singapore and the spread of our venues was signed off independently by all the international federations. We will look very closely at every opportunity to broaden the appeal of the London Olympics and the benefits to be had at every level of the community throughout the UK. If you are saying to me are we going to revisit fundamental issues, like a rowing park, a rowing venue moving from Eton Dorney up to Strathclyde, the answer is no. We have those venues in place and we have signed the host city contract and that is now binding.

  Q57  Mr Sanders: In relation to training facilities, for example, there are communities around the country, either for entire teams or for specific events, where it tends to be the sports body quango that is determining where that is happening, not yourselves, somebody that represents that particular sport is taking the decision.

  Lord Coe: In fairness, an organisation like Nations and Regions will be represented. It is up to all of those regions to appoint their own representatives who will make the best case for them.

  Q58  Mr Sanders: The British Yachting Association said that all sailing events must be at Weymouth and it is now saying that all the training teams should also be at Weymouth.

  Lord Coe: No, they are not saying that at all.

  Q59  Mr Sanders: That is the message.

  Lord Coe: They are not saying that at all.

  Mr Mills: Perhaps if I could just clarify. The process of selection of training camps is an issue for the National Olympic Committees. The 200 National Olympic Committees all over the world will make their own determinations as to where they will base their teams. If there is a strong team from a country that needs to have a rowing facility, for instance, then I am sure Strathclyde would be on the list.

  Lord Coe: Or Holme Pierrepont, or any of our centres of excellence.

  Mr Mills: If you are a strong sailing nation then frankly you will base yourself somewhere in the South West because you need to train where you are going to compete. Each town and city around the UK can look at the facilities they have, look at the countries that are coming to the UK in terms of competition and bid for and pitch for the opportunity to go after individual Olympic training—no quangos involved at all.

  Lord Coe: Some of these sports are less specific. If you are a track and field nation then you might decide on the track and field facilities at Bath, Loughborough, Sheffield or wherever, it is not quite as specific as sailing. The other important issue is that we have a whole raft of facilities that can be used at any one stage in that whole build-up process but it is, as Keith said, for the National Olympic Committees to make that decision. I have to say nobody would have told Craig or Simon Clegg from the British Olympic Association that Narromine was better than Noosa and Noosa better than somewhere on the Queensland coast of Australia, that was a judgment those guys made.

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