Olympic Games and Paralympic Games 2012: Legacy - Culture, Media and Sport Committee Contents

Examination of Witnesses (Question Numbers 80-92)


3 MARCH 2010

  Q80  Mr Sanders: I have to say I have been very confused by that. Do you support the view of Seb Coe that the Stadium should primarily have an athletics legacy?

  Baroness Ford: Yes. Our board is perfectly clear that the bid commitments have to be met. I am not sure I would say the word "primarily" because Seb would be the first person to say that primarily sounds as though that would be the dominant use of the Stadium. We know that the amount of times athletics will be using the Stadium is not a huge amount of time, maybe a couple of dozen times a year, but for me premier athletics must be part of the mix because that was the bid commitment.

  Q81  Mr Sanders: Is there a danger that if you have a prolonged and protracted discussion about what is going to happen to this Stadium it could put London's bid to host the World Athletics Championships in 2015 at risk?

  Baroness Ford: I do not think so. We are working very closely with UK Athletics, and Ed Warner and his board are fully behind what we are doing—in fact, they are working up this process with us. I do not think the Stadium is the issue. There are lots of other issues about the 2015 Athletics, such as how it would be funded and so on, that are not anything to do with us, but I do not think Ed believes that the process we are going through is unhelpful to him at the moment.

  Q82  Mr Sanders: Have we identified any other post-Olympic stadium which did not become a national football stadium that has a successful legacy?

  Baroness Ford: Sydney?

  Mr Altman: Possibly. I would have to look.

  Q83  Mr Sanders: We have seen a lot of very almost tumbleweed stadiums as part of our last three years of work.

  Baroness Ford: That is exactly what we want to guard against, which is why we need to get this settled once and for all this year, and there are lots of ways in which it can be settled. The current status quo, the planning status quo, is for the Stadium to be taken down and rebuilt into a 25,000-seater premier athletics stadium, the new Crystal Palace. If that is what we decide to do and if that is what people decide is the best outcome, fine, I do not think we should apologise for that. We have Twickenham and we have Wembley, and we would have a new athletics stadium—and that is what is currently envisaged. If alongside that or complementary to that other things can happen in the Stadium that make it more viable, that make it more animated, that give loads of access to it that involve the community, absolutely fantastic, and we think we can get to a good place with it. I am quite confident we will get to a good decision on the Stadium, but we must do it this year because it cannot be left to just drag along.

  Mr Altman: I would emphasise, relevant to other Olympic stadiums, that what has been very helpful is this has the possibility, has the flexibility exactly that we are talking about. To give us the option, so that we are not tied to any one specific outcome, that is positive. It is always envisaged as a mix of uses to make it viable.

  Q84  Chairman: UK Athletics have suggested that they think it is feasible they could co-exist with a premier league football club. Has the reverse commitment been made, that a premier league football club thinks it can co-exist with UK Athletics?

  Baroness Ford: That is the question we need to put to them now. People need to come in formally now and tell us what they want to do and whether they can do it. Technically, the pitch within the track is absolutely FIFA compliant from the point of view of size, sightlines all of those things, and evidently the Stadium is IAAF compliant. It was built to do that. These things could technically co-exist. It is whether people want to co-exist there. Ed, I know, is quite happy to share with football, and it is for football now, if they want to come into the Stadium, to tell us how they would keep their part of the bargain in terms of the bid.

  Q85  Chairman: But the discussions you are having at the moment with West Ham are on the basis that there will still be an athletics track.

  Baroness Ford: First, we are not having any discussion with West Ham at the moment, in the sense that we are not engaged in any formal discussions with anyone. We have obviously met with a range of people. West Ham, although they have been very vocal about their desire to come there, are not the only show in town, as it were. There are plenty of other people who are interested in different uses for the Stadium that would be complementary to athletics.

  Q86  Chairman: Not premier league football clubs, though.

  Baroness Ford: I am not really in the business of saying who we are talking to at the moment. West Ham have made it plain themselves that they would like to do that. We are in lots of discussions with many other people.

  Q87  Chairman: Finally, can we turn to what happens in terms of the management and day-to-day running of the Park once the Games are completed. Who is going to have the responsibility for that?

  Mr Altman: To understand the different phases might be helpful to answer your question, because there is the phase, as the Chair said earlier, from 2012 when the Games are completed, there is about a one-year period, and ODA have said that by roughly, let us say, May 2013, the Park—not all of the individual venues—will be ready to be turned over to the Legacy Company. That is the timeframe they are working to. There is that year period from 2012 to 2013 during which the ODA will be doing a lot of the reinstatement of the Park, as the Chair said.

  Q88  Chairman: This is the transformation programme.

  Mr Altman: The transformation programme—really the fulfilment of planning commitments that were made: the demounting of facilities, retrofitting and putting the Park in properly, much of those works. The roads would all be put in, and then, when that work is completed, the Olympic Park Legacy Company would take control of the Park for the operation of the Park. We are in discussions with ODA and they are looking at their exit strategy over the next year. It is going to be a very important piece of work and we are going to be working with them. It is possible that timeline could move up. That is something on which we would be in discussions with them. As currently planned, it would be May 2013 when the Park would be handed over from ODA to the Legacy Company.

  Q89  Chairman: You would then have responsibility for the maintenance and running of it until the new tenants have moved into the facilities.

  Mr Altman: That is right. There are a couple of different aspects. One would be the facilities themselves we will inherit, which would be the Aquatics Centre, the Handball Arena (which would then be a multipurpose arena), the Stadium, and of course the IBC and MPC that we were just talking about. Then there will be the Park itself, which is the open space. Each of those could, frankly, have a different approach, and part of what we are doing over the next year is identifying precisely the operators and how we want to go about managing each of those venues and the open space of the Park. One of the things that the company will be looking at is no matter how that ultimately is determined in terms of whether it is multiple facility managers or one facility manager, we would always be looking and working with Lee Valley Regional Park Authority on the integration of the Park as a whole, so that it all works together with respect to the public space, so that the housing works with the public space and the venues, so that it is managed overall. Part of our mission is to manage that well, to get best value for money and long-term value for the Government so that it is managed as a place, if you will.

  Q90  Chairman: When do you expect the public to get access to the Park after the Games?

  Mr Altman: There are two aspects. One is immediately post-Games. We are working with ODA, as I said, as part of their Park operations group to see what kind of access there can be post-Games. Obviously it would be great to let people into the Park before all the transformation work begins, so they can see what the Olympics was like. I just came back from Vancouver. It is an absolutely exhilarating event. I had no idea until I went there just how exciting it is and how it fills the streets and fills the entire city with people and pride. In working with the ODA, we would very much want to try to get people access to that. There will have to be a period when work will go on, and there may be much more limited access at that point, but then, of course, in May 2013 there would be the full accessibility of the Park.

  Q91  Chairman: In terms of the employment benefits which were sold to the local community, how confident are you that those are going to be sustained post-Games as well?

  Baroness Ford: We feel very strongly about that. I know there has been some criticism by the boroughs around the number of local people who have got employment there, although the ODA's figures I think are good respectable figures in terms of what they have been able to do on the job brokerage and so on. It is very, very important for us, in everything that we do, that local people feel as though this is their Park, that they have an opportunity to enjoy it, that they have an employment opportunity through it and that they may have a business opportunity through it and so on. We are working quite hard at the moment to figure out the best way to do that. To give you a simple example: I had a discussion yesterday with the Institute of Groundsmanship, which trains all the people who are greenkeepers or who cut the grass at Wimbledon or whatever—perhaps I should not say "cut the grass at Wimbledon," as I am sure it is much more scientific than that, but those kinds of people—and they would be keen to work with us every year to do maybe two dozen apprenticeships, using the Park as a base for local kids who might want to go into that kind of employment, that kind of field. I am a huge fan of good old-fashioned apprenticeships. Wherever we can, where we can offer those kinds of job opportunities—not just temporary but for people to then go on and make a career or a long-term go of something—we would be very, very keen to do that. One of the people on our board, Lord Andrew Mawson, who has phenomenal experience through the Bromley by Bow Centre in terms of promoting social enterprise and so on, will be specifically charged, with me, for making sure that every single thing that happens in the Park has as much value attached to it for local people as is humanly possible. We care very, very deeply about that.

  Q92  Chairman: Finally, can I come back to one of the facilities which we have not really talked about in detail. You said earlier, and it undoubtedly is the case, that the Aquatics Centre is going to be the iconic building in the Park. As a result, it is going to be one of the most costly buildings in the Park as well. Are you satisfied that it will be used sufficiently and have the facilities which local people want?

  Baroness Ford: Yes. We feel that it is a brilliant example of multi-use of legacy. Colleagues in the ODA have done a huge amount of work with the ASA and with British Swimming. What is planned there and committed there now is not just the governing body which will be basing themselves there, but they are basing a lot of the elite coaching there for swimming and diving. The University of East London wants to be a regular user for the students. They have done a whole lot of work with all of the local schools. One of the great things about the flexibility of having two 250 metre pools is that the moveable booms which have been built in mean that this should be a fantastic facility for disabled people. A huge amount of work has been done and a great programme is envisaged there. Although it will be a more costly build in the legacy, I think it will become very well used and very well loved. I am quite optimistic about that.

  Chairman: That is all we have for you. Thank you both very much.

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Prepared 12 April 2010