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Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, I disagree with the initial statement of the noble Lord, Lord Jopling, that he hopes that the UK will not win the bid. I hope that he is in a small minority in the House in taking that view.
As to whether our chances of winning the bid will be diminished because the next games are to be held in Athens, I do not believe that to be the case. The following games, in 2008, will be held in Beijing. I do not believe that the principle of different parts of the world taking turns to stage the games any longer applies. Europe will have a reasonably good chance.
As to security, it is of course vital in preparing for an event of this kind that everything possible is done to minimise the security risks. Certainly substantial commitments will be made, and extra funding applied, to achieve that objective. At this stage I cannot say how much that will be, but, once we have won the bid, we will have a more detailed prospectus of how the games will be costed.
Baroness Thomas of Walliswood: My Lords, I agree with the Government in supporting the bid and I am gratified that they have decided to do so. On the other hand, I regret the Minister's attitude towards Crossrail. Will she think again on this matter because without a solid public transport route into London from the north-west and the west we shall not be able to get the right number of people into the stadium.
A spectacular link is being formed already by the Channel Tunnel rail link, which is on course to be finished by the time the Olympics take place. I urge the Minister to talk to her government colleagues and to think again about Crossrail. In particular, I urge the Government to consider doing for Crossrail what they did for the Channel Tunnel rail linknamely, to guarantee loans. It was that security which enabled that huge projectwhich is much bigger than Crossrailto go ahead.
Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness for her support for the bid. I cannot give her the guarantee she is asking for in regard to Crossrail. An enormous amount of thought has been given to whether Crossrail could be completed by 2012; the answer is that it cannot be. The amount of preliminary work that still has to be done to make it happen is simply too great. It would be foolish to make a promise and a commitment to achieving it and then to find in 2010 that it will not be ready for the Olympic Games.
It is better to focus on improvements to other parts of the transport infrastructure in London to ensure that, as the noble Baroness rightly said, people can get not only to the stadium in Stratfordif that is where
Baroness Billingham: My Lords, this is the most wonderful news. I welcome it. If I could still manage cartwheels I would turn a couple in the Lobby. It is tremendously good news. As the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, said, we had a fantastically positive debate on the issue. It is good to see that a number of noble Lords who took part in that debate are in their places today.
The Minister said that the Lee Valley would be the principal venue for the games. However, I understand that other aspects of the games will be hived off to other parts of London and to outside venues. That is very important because we want to share the good news. I know that it is early days, but can the Minister give the House further information on that aspect?
Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for her welcome. Perhaps we shall see her playing in a veterans' tennis game at Wimbledon. We should perhaps introduce a special veterans' section into the Olympics. This would enable a number of Members of your Lordships' House to take part. The noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, could participate in the bobsleigh; the noble Lord, Lord Higgins, could run; and the noble Lord, Lord Addington, can certainly play rugbyalthough, unfortunately, it is not an Olympics event.
It is intended that the athletics stadium, the athletics village, the aquatic centre and the media centre will be located in the southern end of the Lee Valley in the Stratford/east Hackney area. Although I cannot give any precise decisionsthey have not as yet been madeevents will take place in other parts of London and elsewhere in the country. Football will take place right across the UK as well as at Wembley and shooting will take place at Bisley. The assessment carried out by ARUP looked at the possibility of hockey being staged at the Charlton football club; the modern pentathlon at Crystal Palace; rowing at Enfield; tennis at Wimbledon; and so on. So there will be activities all over London and elsewhere in the country, not only in the East End.
Lord Higgins: My Lords, as it is well over half a century since I took part in the last London Olympics I certainly agree that it is time London put in another bid. Does the Minister agree that while it is true that what is important in the Olympic Games is not the winning but the taking part, that is a view best taken after the event rather than before and we should go into the bid with great determination to win?
More specifically, does she agree that, following the Pickett's Lock affair and the decision not to have a permanent athletics track in Manchester, it is a scandal that we still have no full-sized British athletics stadium? As an indication of our determination on this bid, should we not proceed with such a structure at the earliest possible moment?
Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, yet again, I greatly appreciate the welcome given by the noble Lord. It is particularly appropriate to thank him as someone who took part in the 1948 Olympic Games. As to the issue of a new athletics stadium, it is unlikely that the Government will commit to one at this stage. Our efforts should be focused on the Olympic stadium, which will of course be primarily for athletics.
Lord Faulkner of Worcester: My Lords, my noble friend will recall that when we debated the Olympics on 18th December on the Motion of the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, there were 14 speakers, one of whom was herself. The other 13 noble Lords who took part in the debate were unanimously in favour of the British Government making a bid for the London Olympics of 2012. So there will be very widespread support for the decision that she has announced today.
In response to the noble Lord, Lord Jopling, who says we have not got a hope, I think many people will reject that view. They should ponder the words of Mr. Rogge when he was interviewed by the Evening Standard in December. He said:
I wish to ask my noble friend about the legacy, a subject I raised in the debate on 18th December. Can she confirm that it remains the Government's intention that the Olympic village will become affordable housing in a part of London where there is clearly a great need for housing of that sort for young professional people who find property prices in the South East prohibitive? Can she say anything about the thinking for the future of the stadium which will be built there? One of the successes of the Commonwealth Games bid in Manchester is the fact that the stadium is to become the new home of Manchester City next season. Can some similar arrangement be put in place for an Olympic stadium in the east so that it has a long life and does not become a white elephant?
Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, I well remember the debate that took place last year when every speaker spoke strongly in favour of an Olympic bid. We listened to the debate. I can confirm that the Olympic village will provide 4,000 extra affordable houses for people in the East End of London.
On the future of the stadium, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State and my right honourable friend the Minister for Sport have spent quite a lot of time over the last six months travelling to the venues of previous Olympic Games in recent years and those where they are going to take place to see what lessons we can learn with respect to the legacy so far as stadia are concerned. One of the advantages this bid will have is that the stadium will be right in the centre of a huge city, unlike Sydney, where the stadium is some way away. It has therefore proved much more difficult to use it, and use it on a regular basis. So we take the legacy issue very seriously.
Lord King of Bridgwater: My Lords, I declare an interest as the chairman of the ExCeL exhibition centre at the Royal Victoria Docks and add our name to the people pledging full support for this Olympic bid. Mindful of what the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, said, and the experience, following the World Cup, of Japan, which appeared to be left with a large number of white elephants, as the great stadia it had built were of no further use afterwards, it is obviously extremely important from the point of view of value for money that we see a positive benefit in low-cost, affordable housing and particularly in transport.
In that connection, the Minister's answer regarding Crossrail is extremely disappointing. She will not stand up and pledge herself to that; it is a lot of money and many Ministers will be listening to what she says. But it is critical for London, irrespective of the Olympics, to have better communications, and this must be the opportunity. If we do not do that, I think it will seriously prejudice our chances on the bid.
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