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Olympic Games 2012

Volume 711: debated on Tuesday 2 June 2009

Question

Asked By

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they will encourage the British Olympic Association to hold the Olympic shooting events in 2012 at Bisley instead of Woolwich.

My Lords, the Olympic Board has confirmed that the Royal Artillery Barracks in Woolwich represents the most cost-effective option and will host the shooting events in 2012. The Olympic Board also agreed that further feasibility work should be undertaken at Barking Reach as a contingent fallback option. Bisley is not being considered as an alternative venue.

My Lords, is it not a strange definition of cost-effective and a most appalling waste to spend £40 million on a shooting venue at Woolwich, which will be destroyed immediately after the Olympics, rather than £10 million less for a facility at Bisley that will be used for generations? Please, will the Government and the Olympic organising committee stop circulating me and other Members of this House with lies and half-truths about their reasons for this decision and publish in full the independent report that they have had from KPMG and the internal report that they prepared themselves, so we can understand the real reasons behind this decision?

My Lords, I am not sure how fruitful such an activity would be in guaranteeing the success of shooting in the Olympic Games, which is the objective of the Olympic Board, which has made its final decision. I do not recognise the figures that the noble Lord put forward on comparative costs, but I do know that if the decision been for Bisley, it would have involved the creation of an Olympic village for the shooters and £15 million to £20 million being spent on that, which is a significant cost. It would also have lost the great factor which obtains with the vast majority of events in the Olympic Games—that they are London’s Olympic Games and should, as far as possible, take place within the confines of London.

My Lords, I declare an interest—it is perhaps somewhat unlikely—as president of the Sussex rifle association.

My Lords, does the Minister agree that Bisley is known the world over as the centre of British rifle shooting and is also, as it happens, a place of great charm? If the Olympic rowing is going to take place at Eton, as I believe it will, with accommodation for the competitors at the Royal Holloway College, what good reason is there for the shooting not to take place at Bisley, which is roughly the same distance?

My Lords, I am glad that the noble and learned Lord has arrived armed only with his intellect and not with his rifle, but I must respond to him in these terms. The Royal Holloway College has limited accommodation. It would not have been straightforward, or even possible, to accommodate those involved in the shooting events as well as those already involved with rowing. So there is a problem with the Royal Holloway College in those terms. That is why I quoted the fact that the Bisley proposal would have involved construction of accommodation. I again emphasise that rowing is not taking place in London because it is difficult to identify how it could take place on the Thames. The horse-riders have the same claim with regard to Burghley or Badminton, but it has been decided that the horse events should be in Greenwich. It is logical that the shooting events should take place in Woolwich for the London Games.

My Lords, has my noble friend seen LOCOG’s claim that one of the reasons why Bisley was not chosen as the appropriate—and cheaper—venue for the Olympic and Paralympic shooting events is that it could not identify a longer-term use for it? Will he ask the ODA and LOCOG for the minutes of the meeting with the British Army and British Shooting on 16 February this year which show that the Olympic ranges were intended to be used for military marksmanship, for GB, England and Paralympic training, as well as for normal commercial use? Will he also inquire into the claim, again by LOCOG, that Bisley was no good because it could not be completed until 2012, which was too near the start of the Games, when that was the completion date that LOCOG itself suggested to those responsible for running Bisley, and the Bisley people argued that they could get it done by the autumn of 2011? Will he have a look at those minutes?

My Lords, I will certainly have a look at the minutes. I must say that, in preparing for this Question, I did not look at the minutes of every conceivable meeting concerned with the development of the Olympic programme. However, KPMG carried out a full cost study; it cost a significant sum, but it was about an important decision. That investigation showed that Bisley presented a number of problems, one of which was cost. There is the additional problem that as ownership of Bisley is not invested in one particular authority, it is difficult for the Olympic Board to get agreement on the implementation of any decision on Bisley. Finally, the point still holds that these are the London Games and the shooting will take place in Woolwich to the benefit of shooting in the future.

My Lords, I declare my interest as chairman of the British Olympic Association. Does the Minister agree that the BOA has been working hard with British Shooting on this issue, particularly to seek an effective sports legacy? However, does he not also agree that the paper presented to the Olympic Board by the Government Olympic Executive on 19 March made it clear to the mayor, the Secretary of State, me and, indeed, my noble friend Lord Coe that none of the existing ranges at Bisley is international federation or International Olympic Committee-compliant? Does he not also agree that the building of duplicate ranges on adjacent MoD land would require highly sensitive development on green belt/SSSI land adjacent to housing and that an alternative satellite village would be required, denying the shooters the Olympic experience in the Olympic Village?

My Lords, I am delighted with that additional testimony about the care with which this issue has been approached and the problems that were attendant on Bisley. A difficult decision was arrived at and is now final, and I make this plea to the House. Of course there will be disappointment at a whole range of decisions on the preparation for the Olympic Games, but once those difficult decisions have been taken, it behoves us all to ensure that they are then fulfilled to guarantee the success of the London Olympics.