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Olympic Stadium

Volume 690: debated on Tuesday 20 March 2007

asked Her Majesty’s Government:

What plans they have for the use of the Olympic stadium following completion of the London Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2012.

My Lords, the Olympic board is committed to delivering on its commitment to have a sustainable athletics and community sports-for-all concept for the Olympic stadium in legacy. The “living stadium” concept, with a mixed-sport offering, combined with commercial, school and community use, is the most compelling option to delivering the legacy ambition. The Olympic board has now commissioned further detailed work on the concept.

My Lords, I thank the Minister for that Answer. Does he agree that we must ensure that as many facilities as possible have a future use and that we do not again end up subsiding very rich sports, such as football? Those facilities should have a sporting legacy.

My Lords, that is an important point. It is very much in line with the thinking of the authority. The capacity of the stadium will be reduced, from the 80,000 that is necessary for the opening and closing ceremonies of the Games and for the Olympic Games themselves, to 25,000 for athletics and other sports, so that it can be more readily used by the community, schools and others who wish to participate in sport. The stadium is only one of five sports facilities that will be permanently in place as a legacy from the Games.

My Lords, has the budget and the design of the stadium been agreed, signed off and approved yet?

No, my Lords, not yet. Negotiations are still going on with McAlpine, the main contractor. All the participants in the construction have an exceptional record of producing stadia to time and on budget. They were responsible for the Olympic Games stadium in Sydney, among other achievements. We have not yet finalised the budget.

My Lords, besides the main stadium and other sporting facilities that the Minister has mentioned, which will remain in situ, a number are being designed specifically so that at the end of the Games they can be dismantled and taken to other parts of the country so that people across Britain will be able to use and enjoy them.

My Lords, my noble friend is quite right. Part of our ambition is that the Games will involve the whole of the United Kingdom and not just London, although London is the site of the Games and the winning-bid city. The Games will be played in various forms right across the country. The most important legacy of all from the Games will be increasing the sporting participation of young people in the wide range of sports that the Olympics Games represent, wherever they might live in the United Kingdom.

My Lords, is it true that the facilities for the shooting sports will be very considerable and expensive and that, according to the plans, they will be dismantled after the Games, leaving no legacy? If so, would it be better to improve the existing facilities that can remain for the use of future generations?

My Lords, the noble Lord has identified an area that raises very challenging issues as regards the legacy. Although shooting is pursued properly and safely as a sport, we are at the same time concerned to ensure that we pursue our broader objectives of reducing the availability of guns and gun culture. That is why we have legislation on the ownership of guns; there is also the question of the facilities for the Games. We want the Games to feature shooting, but the noble Lord will realise that we are bound to be concerned about the nature of the facilities that obtain thereafter.

My Lords, is the Minister aware that people with a learning disability are unable to take part in the Paralympics? I believe they cannot even take part in the Beijing Games. Can the Minister do anything to ensure that they are able to take part in the 2012 Games?

My Lords, the noble Lord is right—people with learning disabilities have not participated in previous Games. The intention is that the London Games will be the first in which they will be able to participate and we are making plans accordingly.

My Lords, does the Minister accept that the real and lasting benefit of the Games will be not just in leaving glittering stadia but in enhancing the lives of the people of east London in particular, which contains some of the youngest, poorest and most multicultural communities in this country, if not in Europe?

My Lords, I am grateful to the right reverend Prelate. I could list a whole range of ways in which that community will benefit. Let me make the obvious point. If, in the 18th century, it had been thought likely that very close to the centre of London something as absurd as an open space as large as Hyde Park or Regent’s Park would be created, people would have been surprised at that ambition. But once it was realised, they would have recognised the huge benefits that it would bring for centuries thereafter. What is being created as the Olympic legacy is the largest urban park that London has seen and we should celebrate that fact.