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Vancouver Winter Olympics

Volume 506: debated on Monday 1 March 2010

2. What assessment she has made of the lessons to be learned from the Vancouver 2010 winter Olympics for the London 2012 Olympics. (318879)

Once again, the whole House will want to congratulate Amy Williams on her gold medal in the skeleton bob. The celebrations continue in Cambridge and in Bath, where she trained.

While in Vancouver, I had a full programme of meetings, and I am happy to place a list of these in the Libraries of both Houses. The value of those meetings is that they provided real-time opportunity to discuss a number of issues related to city operation of the games and security. I know that the hon. Gentleman will be particularly interested in the time that I spent considering the risk of an increase in human trafficking associated with the Olympic games, and I worked closely with the security services and police officials at federal, district and city level on that. I have met representatives of non-governmental organisations in Vancouver and here, since I returned. We will in due course publish a proper debrief on the Olympic and the Paralympic games.

Given that all major sporting events attract an increase in criminal activity, and in view of the fact that the Metropolitan police have said that there are already new indications that criminal activity in east London is increasing, two years before the Olympics, will the Minister consider a major poster campaign on all London buses, on the underground and on sites, to highlight the fact that Britain is no longer a welcome place for human trafficking and to ensure that human traffickers realise that they are no longer welcome in Britain?

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely correct in his last point, and the focus of all the meetings, visits and engagement that I have had on the issue has been that we want to send a signal to traffickers and criminals from around the world that London will not welcome them in the run-up to the 2012 games. The hon. Gentleman should reflect, as I know he does, on the complexity of the matter. No simple conclusions should be drawn, and we are ensuring that we mitigate the risks.

Cheap ticket prices were fundamental to the success of Vancouver, allowing real sports fans to attend and witness the superb success of Amy Williams from Bath. Some 50,000 free tickets were issued, and 100,000 were issued at less than £16. Equivalent figures in London would be 300,000 free tickets and 600,000 below £16. How many cheap and free tickets does the Minister expect to be issued for London 2012?

The hon. Gentleman knows that I am enormously concerned about ensuring that families with children from right around the country can afford to come to the games, and that tickets are affordable for Londoners. The pricing of tickets is, however, a matter for the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games, which will make announcements about it later this year. I am quite sure that it will listen to the messages that are coming loud and clear from the House about the importance of affordability.

May I add my congratulations to Amy Williams on her gold medal? That is a fantastic way to end Olympic questions for this Parliament. However, her achievement should not disguise the fact that we under-shot the Government’s UK Sport medal target of three; that Snowsport GB, the governing body responsible for snow sports, went into receivership on the eve of the games; and that at a time when we have successfully raised more than £600 million of sponsorship for London 2012, despite the £6 million of lottery and Exchequer funding that has gone into winter sports we have not attracted a major sponsor into that area. As we move forward to the Sochi Olympics—

Order. May I just gently say to the hon. Gentleman that there are other questioners on the Order Paper? I hope that he will bring himself to a question very quickly.

I was actually just going to finish by asking whether, given all those factors, the Minister now feels it is time for a fundamental review of where we are going with winter sports before Sochi.

I do not want anything to detract from Amy Williams’s gold medal or the significant number of top 10 finishes that our athletes had, and nobody in the House should talk down the efforts of team GB, every single member of which deserves our congratulation. It is worth noting that investment in winter sport doubled between Salt Lake City and Vancouver, from £3 million to £6 million for the same number of athletes. I am quite sure that UK Sport, as the responsible body, will want to review progress and the funding strategy.