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Olympic Games and Paralympic Games 2012

Volume 719: debated on Monday 14 June 2010

Motion to Take Note



To move that this House takes note of preparations for the 2012 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games.

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, for securing this debate. This is a terrific opportunity for the House to take note of the excellent progress that is being made by all parties in delivering the 2012 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games. The Games are on track to be a nationwide sporting and cultural celebration unrivalled in a generation. I can assure the House that the Government will continue to work to ensure that we deliver a safe and successful Games in 2012.

In reviewing the list of speakers for today’s debate, I am aware that several noble Lords who are thoroughly involved personally in the planning for and after 2012 are speaking, as are others with tremendous sporting interest and insight. I and the whole House look forward to the maiden speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Grey-Thompson, whose own Olympic achievements and involvement give her special expertise to take part in the debate today. I am aware that the noble Lord, Lord Mawson, who has real concerns about the legacy for east London, is unable to be present today, but many look forward to joining him on a visit to the Olympic Park tomorrow, and to seeing how the landscape of this part of east London has been dramatically transformed.

I will focus my opening remarks on the progress made since the House last debated this subject in January of this year, addressing the Government’s plans for delivering a substantial sporting legacy from the 2012 Games. In coming to this subject with fresh eyes, I am amazed by the complexity and detailed dovetailing needed. In very simple terms, there are three strands. First, there is the work of the Olympic Delivery Authority—the ODA—in preparing the facilities for a successful Olympics. Secondly, there is the work of the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games—LOCOG—which is responsible for the operation of the Games themselves. I regret that the noble Lord, Lord Coe, is unable to be present today but I have received a briefing from him. Thirdly, there is the legacy of 2012, both in terms of interest and involvement in sport and tourism, and the physical legacy, particularly in east London, and the work of the Olympic Park Legacy Company. Beyond the three strands, there is the import and involvement of the British Olympic Association, the International Olympic Committee, myriad sporting bodies and, not least, the Cultural Olympiad, taking the 2012 experience beyond sport.

On ODA progress, the construction of the Olympic Park and venues continues to be on time and on budget. More than 54 per cent of the Olympic Delivery Authority’s programme is now complete. I pay tribute to the way that the ODA, led by its chair, John Armitt, and chief executive, David Higgins, have managed this extremely complex project. The Olympic stadium, now at its full height with all 14 lighting towers recently installed, can be seen from across east London. Work on the stadium is expected to be completed by spring 2011. The Aquatics Centre, the iconic venue and gateway to the Olympic Park, is also structurally complete and is on course to be fully completed on time in June 2011. Construction of the Olympic Village is proceeding on schedule, with three of the 11 residential plots structurally complete. Work on the roads, bridges and utility networks between the sites is well under way and work on the new education campus, the Chobham Academy, is also under way. The majority of these homes will be structurally finished by summer 2010, with construction complete by the end of 2011.

Not only is the ODA delivering this work on time, on budget, and to a high quality, it is doing so while setting new standards for sustainable construction, ensuring that the Games will be a catalyst for genuine behavioural change in the construction industry. The ODA has supported a range of measures in place to ensure that local people are well placed to benefit from employment and training opportunities on the park, helping more people to gain lasting employment or a more highly skilled job.

In a difficult economic environment, the ODA has managed its resources extremely well. It has realised more than £600 million worth of savings throughout the programme, £130 million in the last quarter alone. When this Government came into office, they indicated that one of their first tasks was to secure £6 billion worth of savings to help reduce the budget deficit. The Government are committed to delivering a successful Games in 2012, but the preparations for the 2012 Games cannot be immune to the need to reduce the budget deficit. Therefore, we have asked the ODA to find £27 million worth of savings from its budget for 2010-11. The Government will be working with the ODA to deliver these savings, but we are clear that any savings should not detract from the quality of the facilities that the ODA is constructing. I am confident that the ODA can deliver these savings, which represent less than 2 per cent of its £1.7 billion budget for 2010-11. Further details of where these savings will be found will be published by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport in its quarterly economic report on London 2012 in July.

The Olympic Delivery Authority has put in place the building blocks for the regeneration of east London, including world-class sporting venues for both elite and community use; major utilities, transport and environmental improvements and a stunning new parkland; and the Olympic Village, which will be converted into nearly 3,000 new homes in legacy. The Olympic Park Legacy Company is also in place to oversee the future development of the area, which will see up to 12,000 additional homes and thousands of job opportunities being created on the park site. All this activity is inspiring a raft of new private developments and accelerating the delivery of existing schemes in the surrounding areas. For example, the £1.45 billion Westfield retail development at Stratford City, when it opens next year, will be the largest urban shopping centre in Europe, offering thousands of employment opportunities for local residents.

The regeneration of east London cannot be achieved by government alone. This has to be a partnership between local communities and councils, central and regional government, local businesses and the voluntary sector. I welcome the work of the east London host boroughs in leading the delivery of social and economic regeneration for local communities in and around the Olympic Park.

Ensuring the safety and security of the Games will be one of the biggest security challenges that the UK has ever faced. None the less, normal life will go on alongside regular summer events such as the Notting Hill Carnival and Her Majesty the Queen’s diamond jubilee celebrations. Our aim is for everyone to enjoy the 2012 summer of celebration safely and securely without security measures adversely affecting their experience. We are confident that this is a challenge that the police and security services are well placed to meet.

While the UK has an excellent track record of successfully hosting major events safely and securely, the coalition Government will be reviewing Olympic safety and security plans. This will make certain that delivery is on target and that the work done to date is sufficient. I want to make it absolutely clear that the safety of the Games is of paramount importance, and we are committed to ensuring that everyone can enjoy the celebrations peacefully.

Security is just one of many issues where the Government need to work closely with the organising committee of the noble Lord, Lord Coe, to enable it to deliver a stunning Games in 2012. That committee continues to make good progress in ensuring that the London 2012 Games will be everyone’s Games. The committee has already launched the ticketing sign-up programme, which aims to increase interest prior to tickets going on sale in spring 2011. The Olympic and Paralympic mascots, Wenlock and Mandeville, representing the heritage of the Olympic and Paralympic movements, have been launched. We are also looking forward to the launch of LOCOG’s volunteering recruitment programme during the summer. The Government will ensure that they meet all the commitments given to the International Olympic Committee during the bid, and we will continue to work closely with and support the organising committee in any way that we can.

What is key for the Government is delivering not just the physical regeneration programme in east London and a truly great Games in 2012, but ensuring that there is a distinctive, lasting and visible sports legacy from the London 2012 Games. As set out recently by the Minister for Sport and the Olympics, there are five aspects to this Government’s plans to deliver on this aim. The first stage of creating a truly distinctive sports legacy is the commitment to encourage more young people to take part in sport. Taking part in sport is a positive thing for young people, and competitive sport can build self-esteem, teamwork and respect among them. It helps them to develop their potential, whether in terms of sporting or academic success or their personal and social well-being.

While the previous Government made efforts in this area, there is much further to go. Only one out of five children participates regularly in competition between schools; and fewer than one in three participates regularly in competition within their schools. We want to use the Games to revive competitive sport in all schools. We will launch a new national Olympic-style school competition in which all schools will be invited to participate. It will not be a single competition but a package of events and activities across the country, culminating with the first national event in the summer of 2012. We have said that this will be financed with up to £10 million per annum through lottery funds. We are working with Sport England and the Youth Sport Trust—I pay tribute to the noble Baroness, Lady Campbell, for her vision and achievements in improving the quality of sport for young people—to develop our plans for this competition.

Secondly, we will meet the Conservative manifesto commitment to return the share of National Lottery funding of the arts, heritage and sports to its original level of 20 per cent. We are moving ahead with this and have already begun the consultation process. We expect to lay the order before Parliament after the Summer Recess. We believe that each year this will secure in the region of a further £50 million in lottery funding for sport.

Thirdly, we are aiming fully to develop a truly world-leading organisational structure for sport in the UK, and believe that we can do this by bringing UK Sport, Sport England and the Youth Sport Trust together under one roof. Given the current economic environment, it is more important than ever for our sports organisations to demonstrate that they can do work and together as effectively and efficiently as possible. However, we are committed to listening to sports bodies in agreeing the best way to approach this and will bring forward proposals for consultation in due course.

Fourthly, we want to make it easier to bid for major events. We are looking to bring forward, at the appropriate time, a specific major sports events Bill to help to make the UK a natural home for international governing bodies’ major events.

Finally, we are under no illusions that achieving a step change in adult participation in sport is easy. However, the Government have asked Sport England to lead a programme of activity and investment to deliver a legacy from the 2012 Games of lasting mass participation in sport. We will announce further details of these plans in the coming months.

We remain committed to delivering a wide legacy from the 2012 Games—the regeneration of east London, as I have already mentioned, and also the creation of a lasting legacy of cultural participation and community action, as well as making a real difference to the life chances of disabled people in this country.

The Government have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to deliver an outstanding Olympic and Paralympic Games, alongside a strong and lasting legacy. Working closely with all our stakeholders, it is our intention to make that happen. I look forward to hearing noble Lords’ contributions to this debate.

My Lords, it is a real pleasure to take part in the debate today. Before I begin, I convey to the House apologies from the noble Lord, Lord Mawson, who would normally be here to participate but has been held up on business in the north of England. Noble Lords know what a great champion he is for the legacy and regeneration of east London, and I am sure that he will continue to be every bit as diligent over the next two years and thereafter.

The Government inherit the preparations for the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games in excellent shape. I have no doubt that the Minister will find many challenges in his new post but I suspect that none will be so satisfying or so enjoyable as the 2012 brief. I wish him well in continuing the successful work done to date.

I am looking forward to hearing from my noble friend Lady Morgan, who, I am sure, will tell us about the great work being done by the Olympic Delivery Authority on constructing the venues and facilities for 2012. I had the pleasure of taking visitors around the Olympic Park, which is absolutely amazing. It is difficult to convey in words without going there what an immense achievement and complex project it has been. I urge any noble Lords who have not recently been on a visit to the park to do so. It is a marvellous tribute to British construction and project management expertise.

I am disappointed that the noble Lord, Lord Coe, is not in his place today, but I know from my frequent discussions with him about the great progress being made to stage a spectacular and very British Games. He and his team deserve enormous credit for achieving such a positive level of sponsorship in trying economic circumstances. They have done an absolutely fantastic job there.

I very much look forward to hearing the maiden speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Grey-Thompson, and the speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Campbell, about the preparations of our elite athletes. However, I do not want to let the moment pass without also paying tribute to my right honourable friend Tessa Jowell MP, whose vision, skill and tenacity have held this amazingly complex project together and handed to the new Government a very strong legacy, as well as an immense challenge for incoming Ministers. These are very big shoes to fill.

Of course, one of the great aspects of this project is its non-partisan nature. The new Olympics Minister, Hugh Robertson, was fully engaged, very knowledgeable and thoughtful in opposition and, for my part, hugely supportive of the legacy of the Olympic and Paralympic Games. I am sure that he will be a great champion in his new role.

My primary interest in the Games is in the legacy that endures in the Olympic Park and surrounding area. Uniquely among host cities, a dedicated company was set up to focus entirely on securing the strongest possible legacy from the Games. The Olympic Park Legacy Company, which I am privileged to chair, was set up almost 15 months ago, and I think that we have made a really good start.

We have completed the master plan that will guide the sustainable development of this park for the next 25 years. This is not a short-term project. In time, more than 10,000 new homes will be built in the park and the surrounding areas, as well as the marvellous legacy of beautiful open space to which the Minister referred, fantastic waterways and world-class sporting venues. It is important to us that we create a high-quality neighbourhood which provides much-needed family housing in this part of east London.

We will also create a super visitor attraction, helped by the sporting and leisure facilities on offer in the park and enhanced by the iconic ArcelorMittal Orbit. That magnificent structure—I know that there are different views about it, but I think that it is magnificent—was commissioned by the Mayor of London and will be a major addition to the London skyline and a magnet for visitors to the area in the years to come. I think that it will underline the park as a must-see, must-return destination for people who have been inspired by the Games and who want to return again and again to use the great facilities on offer there. Also in that mix, we will attract commercial activity to the park that complements and sustains the residential, sporting and leisure offer there.

What specifically do we have to show for 15 months’ preparation? We have a great working relationship with the five excellent Olympic host boroughs, which are doing tremendous work in preparing for the Games. I was so glad that the Minister mentioned that, because we should never forget that it will be the host boroughs that will inherit the legacy and live with the decisions that are taken. Working very closely with them, we have a new master plan with a sharpened focus on sustainability, on family housing, as I mentioned, and, of course, a sporting legacy.

Secondly, the process to create a final use for the Olympic stadium is also well under way. I am confident that we will soon be able to announce a commercially viable, sustainable use for this beautiful stadium that guarantees a top-class, long-term home for UK athletics. Thirdly, the process to determine operators for the remaining park venues is also well under way, and we have had tremendous interest in them. We have no intention of waiting until the Games are over, as other countries have done, to determine the use of those venues. Their future will be absolutely secure well in advance of the Games.

Fourthly, we have created a new approach with Olympic sponsors. I think that it is absolutely right and proper that in this, the first Games to be won explicitly on legacy, the sponsors widen their approach to ask not just how they support the Games but how they invest in and support the legacy. I am delighted to report to noble Lords that they have responded incredibly positively to that. Last month, we announced our first investment in the park. The excellent Field Studies Council, well known to many noble Lords, will work with us to create a residential centre in the park, the first ever urban field studies centre. I could not be more pleased that our first investment will be educationally led and will benefit young people locally in east London but also students from the rest of the United Kingdom. I hope that noble Lords will see that we are making tangible progress.

However, an important part of making all that work has been the need for the legacy company to have freehold control of the land in the park, unencumbered by debt. A deal to do that was struck earlier this year by the Mayor of London and the previous Government. That deal is now being re-examined as part of the overall Treasury review, despite the fact that the deal was fiscally neutral, so I ask the Minister to underline the importance of the deal for a successful legacy and press colleagues for an early endorsement of it.

Preparations for the Olympic and Paralympic Games are well advanced, although many, many challenges still lie ahead. The same is entirely true of legacy. However, everywhere I go, there is tremendous good will and a real passion for the legacy of the Games to be every bit as successful as the Games themselves. Working with the Mayor of London and the five host boroughs, I know that the legacy will be something of which we can all be immensely proud.