Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 20 September 2014

£6m cost of Olympic Torch relay

David Beckham with the torch during the ceremony to mark the arrival of the Olympic flame, at RNAS Culdrose, Cornwall

England's largest local councils spent more than £6 million hosting the Olympic Torch for last year's Games, figures published on the one-year anniversary of the start of the relay show.

On average, authorities paid out just over £40,000 to host the flame, funding items such as security and street furniture, as well as road-closure notices and evening celebrations.

The biggest spends were in the London boroughs of Bexley and Waltham Forest, who both forked out in excess of £279,000, while more than a dozen other authorities recorded six-figure sums to host the Torch.

Those councils who enjoyed multiple visits from the iconic flame and its formidable entourage often reported larger spends than those whose glimpse of the parade was fleeting, while larger authorities with huge populations understandably spent more than their smaller counterparts.

More than 150 councils were asked to provide details of their expenditure, with Trafford Metropolitan Borough's £1,500 the lowest recorded.

A clutch of county councils said they had spent nothing or that data was not available. The figures were obtained by the Press Association under the Freedom of Information Act.

Flick Rea, chairman of the Local Government Association's culture, tourism and sport board, said councils wanted to make the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity memorable.

She said: "The torch relay was a huge logistical challenge.

"Without council efforts in managing thousands of road closures, recruiting a small army of volunteer marshals, setting up safety barriers and managing crowds, cleaning up after the cavalcade and handling a vast range of other issues, it simply wouldn't have happened.

"The cost to each council could be affected by many things. Few, if any, meaningful conclusions can be drawn by comparing expenditure on an issue with so many variables."

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