Belfast Telegraph

Friday 31 October 2014

Doubts over Lottery Games repayment

The London 2012 Games triggered 'a mood of confidence and pride (that) swept the nation', a committee of MPs said

MPs have raised doubts about repaying the National Lottery for its key role in helping to fund the London 2012 Games.

Lottery money was a vital part of the public funds used to develop the Olympic Park and infrastructure needed for the Games.

The deal was that the Lottery would be repaid from future returns from developments at the Park but the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) notes that current projections suggest the first payment will not be until the mid-2020s.

PAC chairman Margaret Hodge said: "Lottery good causes lost money during the period running up to the Games. They need to be assured that they will get some of this back from the financial returns secured from the development of the Olympic Park. The Lottery provided more than £2 billion towards the costs of the Games but has little influence over decisions by the London Legacy Development Corporation (in charge of securing the economic future of the Park) about the timing and value of sales over the next two decades. It is not clear that their interest is being adequately promoted and protected."

In its post-Games review, the PAC states: "We are not convinced that the Lottery and Exchequer interests in securing financial returns from development of the Olympic Park will be sufficiently protected by the existing arrangements." The MPs suggest the Government should develop "a mechanism" to ensure the LLDC's decisions are transparent, prioritise the interests of the Lottery and that returns to the Lottery are closely tracked in the coming years.

The embarrassing sight of empty seats at the London 2012 Games and the availability of tickets for the general public was another concern. During the Games a large number of accredited seats went unused at events for which many members of the public could not get a ticket. The PAC stated it was "a shame that so few tickets for popular events were available to the UK public". Only 51% of tickets for the men's 100 metres final were available to the UK public and only 47% of tickets for the track cycling, they stated.

The PAC concluded: "International sports bodies and media organisations wield a lot of power and it cannot be easy for individual event organisers to push back at their demands. But, learning from the experience of the London Games, the Government, possibly alongside other governments and event organisers, should challenge demands for large numbers of accredited seats."

The Games were an undoubted triumph but lessons should be learned by both the public and private sectors not only on its successes but also on its failings, the PAC said. Future large-scale public sector projects would do well to build on the "invaluable experience and skills" which came from staging the Games, Ms Hodge said.

Venue security, described by the PAC as a "sorry episode" and "a notable blemish" when private security firm G4S failed to recruit enough guards in time, is a clear area where lessons can be learned. It showed "poor planning and then poor delivery by the private sector" as the scale of venue security was massively underestimated, forcing the armed forces and police to step in. Ms Hodge also warned that a volunteering legacy is "in danger of fizzling out". The highly praised volunteers did a "fantastic job" at London 2012 but Ms Hodge added: "The Cabinet Office must demonstrate that it is not missing the boat so that there is a lasting volunteering legacy both within sport and beyond."

With estimates suggesting the £9.2 billion Olympic project is set to come in £377 million under budget, the PAC called for a "comprehensive picture that includes all of the wider costs associated with delivering the Games and their legacy". Ms Hodge noted that the "extraordinarily successful" London 2012 Games had triggered "a mood of confidence and pride (that) swept the nation - and a feeling that this country can get big projects right."

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