Belfast Telegraph

Olympic festival’s costs almost double for Derry council

The cost of the Olympic celebrations in Londonderry has soared to almost double the initial estimate to £90,000.

Derry City councillors last night approved additional funding to cover the Big Flame Festival planned for the city, culminating on June 5 when the Olympic torch leaves the city.

It was originally anticipated that the cost to the council for the delivery of the event would be in the region of between £50,000 and £70,000.

This was expected to be covered through projected savings from the waste management budget, although the total bill is now expected to be at least £40,000 more.

Sinn Fein councillor Paul Fleming said he had concerns about the rise in the costs.

“Once again we start off with £50,000 and now we are told it is £90,000, we would need a detailed explanation as to where those costs arose,” he said.

Council officer Oonagh McGillion told the meeting that in terms of scale, the four-day Big Flame Festival was significantly different from the Halloween festival, which the original estimate was based on.

“The Halloween festival is centred in the city centre where stewards are required in far fewer locations,” she said.

“The Olympic Flame is coming along a more extensive route — from Limavady, Dales Corner, the Waterside right throughout the city centre from the Strand Road, The Diamond, over the Peace Bridge and onto St Columb’s Park — so there is a need for a lot more stewards to ensure the health and safety of the general public which the council is responsible for.

“So, along with metal barriers and CCTV, this is where the extra funding will be used,” the council officer added.

“This will also be the first time St Columb’s Park has been used as stadium and it will be a chance to test

it as a stadium ahead of 2013, so in terms of management of a large number of people we have erred on the side of caution and made sure there will be sufficient stewarding.”

Voicing their concerns about the costs on behalf of their parties, Gerard Diver from the SDLP and Joe Miller from the DUP said they had been reassured by Ms McGillion and would back the town clerk’s recommendation to increase the budget to £90,000.

This received unanimous support.

An extensive programme of events has been lined up for four days from June 1 by the council to mark the Olympic Torch's passage through Derry on June 4.

It begins with a comic book festival themed on the Olympic Truce and a children's competition themed My Hero exhibition.

Also scheduled is a day dedicated to play where host communities will welcome visitors from outside the city to come and enjoy free public facilities on June 2, which will also see the first day of the Carnival of Colours at St Columb's Park.

The main focus of activity during the festival will be on June 4 when several sites around the city in sequence will give a consistent message on the Torch Relay journey towards an evening of celebration at St Columb's Park including Yoga in the Park, Carnival Parade from the Council Offices to the Park, Carnival of Colours, pre-show activities and the arrival of the Main Torch Evening Celebrations.

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