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Olympic Games and Paralympic Games 2012

Volume 719: debated on Monday 14 June 2010

Motion to Take Note (Continued)

My Lords, let me pick up the baton of the Olympic and Paralympic debate before my noble friend’s welcome Statement. I remind the House that a good maxim in the planning of great public projects in London is: “Never forget the Dome”. Another maxim is: “Always stick closely to the core reasons why any public project in London is being brought into existence”. There is much talk in the media and by the commentariat about everything connected to the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics, ranging from urban renewal and legacy, via green initiatives, to the better understanding of foreign languages, but it can be much too easy to lose focus on the core considerations. The last Government disastrously and hilariously lost control of the Dome project because they had wandered off from the core considerations that the Dome was all about.

I believe that there are three core considerations affecting the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics. The first are the competitors—the athletes who compete in the Games. That is why we have the Olympics in the first place, although sometimes when one listens to debates one wonders whether other people realise that. The second core consideration is the security of those athletes and of those who watch them in ever more threatening times. The third is the ability of athletes and spectators to get with ease to all the venues. I am thinking not just of the Olympic Park in east London, which is what we hear about most of the time, but of all the other venues to which people will wish to go.

On the first core issue—the athletes—I must declare my interest as a member of the advisory board of the British Olympic Association. I am convinced that athletes’ interests have been constantly advanced by the British Olympic Association under the chairmanship of my noble friend Lord Moynihan—whose speech we look forward to almost as much as we do to the maiden speech that is coming down the track from the noble Baroness, Lady Grey-Thompson, which is why so many of us are in the House this afternoon—and, in relation to the staging of the competition itself, under the chairmanship of my noble friend Lord Coe. We could not be in better hands than those of those two great Olympians.

Secondly, I am very far from convinced that the previous Government’s legacy on Olympic security is good. The noble Lord, Lord Shutt of Greetland—my noble coalition partner—made only a short mention of security; we heard almost as much about the wonders of the two Olympic mascots, Mandeville and Wenlock. I think that security may deserve greater consideration, so I shall now give it that consideration. I was lost in admiration at the persistence of my noble friend Lady Neville-Jones, now the Minister for Security in the Home Office, in trying to extract information on these issues from the then Security Minister, the noble Lord, Lord West of Spithead, who is not in the House this afternoon. The Minister winding up will be relieved to hear that I do not hold him responsible in any way for the noble Lord, Lord West of Spithead.

I think we all share the pleasure in the fact that the Winter Olympics 2010 passed off in Vancouver and elsewhere without any serious security incident. Many congratulations to the Canadian Government on this great achievement, which was, however, costly. The Canadian Government’s original planning assumption was that 175 million Canadian dollars would be spent on security at the Winter Olympics. That grew in predicted cash expenditure to around 1 billion Canadian dollars by the eve of the Games. I think that figure will have grown considerably because of the extra military deployed around the Games themselves.

We must now turn our attention to the protection that is needed in London. Much has already been spent in the run-up to 2012 on security precautions. I pay tribute to John Armitt and his colleagues in the Olympic Delivery Authority and the precautionary actions they have taken against the insertion of latent explosive devices in the pipe work of the buildings in east London. I hope that exactly the same precautions are being taken—here I seek reassurance from the noble Lord, Lord Shutt of Greetland—in any building activities at any other Olympic venue. The fact that there are so many different venues is something that will present opportunities for those who wish to disturb the Games in different ways. In the mean time, while we all welcome the fact that the Olympic Park in east London has been brought in on time, it will be empty for a long period and there will be considerable cost associated with the successful guarding of the venue.

Once the Games commence, the opportunities for attack are manifest, probably much more tempting at the secondary venues, and even more so at the training camps, where athletes will be in the run-up to the Games. Thus, while the high level of security at the Olympic Park is welcome and evident, the other venues are, in part, at present, on all the publicly available information that we have, wide open to severe security risk. This is something to which those with responsibility in this area must turn. I do not believe that it was looked at seriously at all by the last Administration. We all think about explosives; we just heard about improvised explosive devices when my noble friend repeated the Prime Minister’s Statement from another place. However, I am advised that the threat represented by explosive devices can be nothing compared to the threats represented by ICDs—those improvised chemical devices that have not yet been successfully used at any great sporting event, largely due to good chemical prevention plans. There will doubtless be lessons to be learnt about these preventive strategies from Vancouver 2010. In the mean time, the classic model remains how apparent specific threats in the run-up to the football World Cup in 2006 were dealt with by the German authorities. I commend their approach to their chemical surveillance plan—which was barely noticed by visiting spectators—to those concerned with trying to prevent any use of ICDs in the Olympic Park, at secondary venues or in training camps.

Finally, I come to transport. We should all remember, again, the dreadful Dome experience of the last Labour Government—not just for its inability to set the Thames on fire as promised, but its total inability to get people to a venue with ease, most notably on the first night, with the poor VIPs struggling to get in and those endless queues. Transport for London and our mayor bear a heavy responsibility and burden in getting spectators in and out while ensuring that the rest of London gets about its daily business unaffected. That is an issue on which many a London taxi driver has given me their opinion in recent weeks and months, generally starting, “I dunno, guv”, and going on in ways that many noble Lords can imagine.

So far, so good; doubtless security on different transport modes such as rail or bus is being considered just as much as it is at the perimeters of venues large and small. However, the timing is misfortunate as these transport issues are likely to be highly politicised in the run-up to the Games given the cauldron of London politics and the fact that the run-up to the Games is paralleled by the run-up to the 2012 mayoral elections. Transport and transport issues will probably break out of the cosy bands of bipartisanship that link us in your Lordships' Chamber and another place, and doubtless in the mayoral elections. I suspect that politics will out. Amidst all the attention on transport delivery, we also have to consider ticketing. Ticketing is vital—this is my last point—because there is a potential threat of cyber attack on transport infrastructure ticketing as there is on ticketing in the park and the subsidiary venues. The previous Government badly lagged in their efforts to achieve a properly integrated national cyber security strategy. I am far from convinced that we have our defences up to deal with these issues. If my noble coalition partner Lord Shutt of Greetland has time to answer that point, I should very much welcome assurances that security issues at secondary venues and training camps are being taken just as seriously, and that we are looking hard at how we mount our defences against cyber attacks on ticketing of anything from buses and trains to hotels and getting in and out of the Games themselves.

My Lords, I am grateful for the opportunity to contribute to a debate that is so important to many of us. I thank the noble Lords, Lord Shutt and Lord Moynihan, for initiating it. In passing, I congratulate my noble friend Lady Billingham on speaking in this debate from the opposition Front Bench. She has much to contribute.

I am pleased to see so many noble Lords who can speak with such authority on this subject. I hope that I shall be forgiven for reminding the House—as I have done in the past—that I was the only MP to defy the boycott of the 1980 Olympics in Moscow and witness the noble Lord, Lord Coe, winning the 1,500 and the 800 metres. I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, on winning a silver medal at those Olympics. I do not see something as important as the Olympic and Paralympic Games as a partisan issue. I place on record how pleased I am that the noble Lords are so intrinsically involved in the delivery of our Games, particularly given their sporting heritage. I agree with what the noble Lord, Lord Patten, said about that.

I take this opportunity to welcome another of our country’s greatest athletes, the noble Baroness, Lady Grey-Thompson, of Eaglescliffe, who I am sure will make an impressive maiden speech today. She is the most successful disabled athlete in our history with 16 paralympic medals, 11 of which are gold. We all know that her influence stretches beyond medal success. As an ambassador for sport, particularly paralympic sport, she has inspired many and changed the way people in this country and around the world view disability sport. Retirement has perhaps made her busier than ever with her roles at UK Sport, UK Athletics, Transport for London and the Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation. She is helping to shape the future of sport in this country at a strategic level. I am so pleased that she will be able to do that in this House. She is certainly an inspiration to me. On a personal note, I am delighted that she will be involved in the All-Party Group on Sports, which I chair, and into which we are hoping to breathe fresh life over the course of this Parliament.

In the short time available to me, I want to touch on a few different aspects of the magnificent prospect that the London Olympic and Paralympic Games offer us. They are a unique opportunity to allow us to inspire the whole nation. The building of the Olympic Park is taking place, the velodrome’s foundations are laid, the flagship Aquatics Centre will be a sensation, and the stadium is an established feature of the London skyline. If the progress on the facilities is anything to go by, our Games will be something to be proud of. The regeneration of east London is firmly under way. I am looking forward to visiting the Olympic Park tomorrow with the Mayor of Newham, the noble Lord, Lord Mawson, and other Members to see this progress with our own eyes.

The question remains, however: will we have the athletes to grace these fine arenas? There are noble Lords in this Chamber who are better placed than I am to provide an update, but if British performances in the Swimming World Championships and the Duel in the Pool last year, as well as in the cycling World Cup series, are anything to go by, we are in great shape. We have the European Athletics Championships to look forward to this summer. I am confident that the unprecedented levels of investment in and support for our sportsmen and women will allow them to take this form into the Games. The signs are certainly encouraging.

However, we have to be realistic. We know that budget cuts are inevitable. Indeed, they have already started, with the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport announcing that the budget for the Games will be reduced by £27million. It is clear that widespread public spending cuts will be felt throughout society. If that is to be the case, one can only hope that the Secretary of State will do his utmost to limit the worst effects of these cuts as they bite into the Olympic budget. I heard what the Minister said about this, and we wish him a fair wind in taking part in these debates and ensuring, as far as possible, that the cuts will be mitigated. In other words, any budgetary constraints in this area must be sensible and strategic. This is too important to jeopardise by slashing crucial budgets, and in the long run that will do us no good, given that we all know that the Games, if delivered properly, will be good for the economy. I urge the Minister to ensure that this Government bring the commitments that they made in opposition into government, and remain absolutely committed to delivering an incredible Games.

One area where I have been encouraged by statements from the new Ministers is in the area of legacy—not the hard legacy of new world-class facilities, but the soft legacy of sustained increased participation in sport. This will be the focus of the rest of my speech. For me, legacy is arguably the most important aspect of the whole issue. The 2012 Games provide us with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to inspire a generation—an entire nation—through sport. Nothing brings people in this country together more than sport, and we must not waste this opportunity. The future of an entire generation depends on it.

Let us be clear about the facts. As I stated in a previous debate which I initiated in this House, too many people in this country are overweight or obese. Far too many of them are children. In fact, the NHS Information Centre report on obesity published last year stated that 30 per cent of girls aged between two and 15 and 31 per cent of boys are classed as overweight. Of those girls, 16 per cent are obese, and the figure is 17 per cent for boys. These figures are the result of a steady and worrying increase in recent years. Its direct cost to the NHS has reached £500 million per year, with a further £2 billion cost to the wider economy. The worst-case projection of recent trends suggests that 75 per cent of the population will be suffering the ill effects of excess weight within 15 years, with spiralling annual costs. If the Games can inspire the generation of children and young people who are suffering those ill effects, the trend will reverse. Their physical activity will bring many other benefits, too, in terms of education, community cohesion and tackling anti-social behaviour.

We need to get real about legacy and take it seriously, and there are some basic but vital starting points. CCPR has found that millions of pounds have been diverted from grassroots sport into the delivery of the Games. This cannot happen any more. We need more joined-up thinking about how we treat community sports clubs. We need to move on from the current ludicrous situation where a Minister in one department waxes lyrical about the amazing contribution that sports clubs make to our national life, while another department adds yet another layer of regulations on to the volunteers who run the clubs.

Business rates are going through the roof for amateur sports clubs; utility and water drainage costs are calculated at commercial rates for amateur clubs, which they just cannot afford; music and alcohol licensing costs and requirements are far too high for clubs to be able to handle; and amateur clubs receive widely unsympathetic VAT treatment by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs. Those are big problems on their own but, when combined, they are terminal for many clubs. CCPR’s Sports Club Survey found that the average amateur club operates at a margin of £1,300 a year, and volunteers now spend more time in the office than they do delivering sport. More costs and more administration will kill clubs up and down the country, and that cannot be allowed to happen. Without them, the legacy cannot be achieved, as there will be nowhere for people to go to play sport.

We need recognition from the Minister today that this legacy, which we all support, can be delivered only through a thriving community sports network, and we need a clear commitment from him that he will work across government to help community sports clubs. On the whole, they do not need charity or government handouts; they need our genuine, thoughtful, meaningful support and the space to be able to deliver the sports that they love in their communities.

The new Government are building on a good base. There are some fantastic initiatives and programmes out there. I shall not waste the House’s time by covering them in detail, but the free swimming initiative is having a huge impact at grassroots level, the Football Foundation, of which I am president, does fantastic work providing sport to young people throughout the nation, the legacy action plan is a good start and the appropriate steering groups are in place. It is now time to bring all these programmes and strands of work together in order to seize this incredible opportunity for our country. The Games will be a success—of that I am sure. It is our duty as politicians to ensure that no one involved rests until the inspirational legacy is secured. It is a duty that we should not take lightly.

My Lords, it is with great pleasure that I address this House for the first time on a debate that is close to my heart, but first I should like to say what a privilege it is to be a Member of this House—something that I, and perhaps my politics professor at university, never thought would happen.

I have been overwhelmed by the kindness shown to me before and since my introduction into this House. I express my deep thanks to my sponsors, the noble Lord, Lord Coe, and the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay. I also thank the Convenor of the Cross Benches, the noble Baroness, Lady D’Souza, and the many other noble Lords who have taken the time to welcome me.

I also take this opportunity to thank the numerous members of staff—the Doorkeepers, Attendants and police of the parliamentary estate—who appear to be able to spot a confused glance at 20 paces and who have kindly and gently guided me in the right direction.

I know that the noble Lord, Lord Coe, was very keen to contribute to the debate today. However, he is tonight hosting an annual fundraising event for the charity established in the memory of his mother and, as he is unable to stay for the whole debate, he has asked me to pass on his great regret that he cannot contribute. However, he assures noble Lords of his continuing thanks for their interest in the progress being made towards staging the Games in 2012.

I spent 20 years of my life having the privilege of wearing a British tracksuit competing for our country. That is something that will always be truly special. I hope that I have learnt through my athletics career that to be successful requires time to learn the rules, persistence but, above all, hard work. I sincerely hope that I can serve this House well.

While competing, I recognised that the career of an athlete can be relatively short, so I involved myself in the wider aspects of sport, such as the Sports Council for Wales, UK Sport, UK Athletics, the London Marathon, the London bid for the 2012 Games and, to widen my experience, other organisations outside sport such as the National Disability Council and Transport for London. In this debate, I declare an interest in that I sit on a number of LOCOG committees.

When I started in athletics some 27 years ago, the United Kingdom was a very different place for disabled people. My parents fought hard to get me into mainstream education—something that I strongly believe gave me the right platform on which to build my sporting career. Back then, the word “Paralympic” and the spirit that the Games came to represent were not yet known. As I am sure many noble Lords will be aware, it was at Stoke Mandeville that Professor Sir Ludwig Guttmann, the eminent spinal surgeon, recognised that disabled people not only enjoyed doing sport but indeed were competitive. Sport then and now continues to help challenge attitudes towards disabled people, and in 1960 the first international games for disabled people were held.

In my early career, two things had a profound effect on me: watching the 1984 Olympic Games and the noble Lord, Lord Coe; and, in 1985, seeing a fellow Welsh wheelchair athlete, Chris Hallam, win the London Marathon. Those inspired me to take sport more seriously. I am very proud of my Welsh roots and the support that I received there. The same goes for the north of England, where I now live.

It was not until 1988 that the term “Paralympic” was used and, as that was my first Games, it changed my life. I became involved in the bid for 2012 because from the beginning it was not about hosting the Olympics and then having to put on another event a couple of weeks later; it was about organising the Olympic and Paralympic Games with one committee of the same high quality. For me, the Paralympic Games have two messages. They are about one person or a team winning and the rest not—about sport at its purest level—and about spreading inclusion and change.

The Games that we expect, and I know we will see, will be well organised, with exciting sports presentation, but it is behind the scenes—the Games that we do not immediately think about—that has the ability to promote significant change. London has led the way in organising a Paralympic Games that will raise the bar for sponsorship, sustainability, transport and inclusion that other countries will want to follow. The Games grow every quadrennial, and nations want to be part of them, but for that they need social provision for disabled people. This is just one way in which the Games extend influence. One has only to look at what the Chinese Paralympic team was able to achieve in a few short years, finishing top of the medal table in both 2004 and 2008, to see that change can come. I sincerely hope to welcome their team to London in 2012, along with many other countries that are finding it the right time to think about how they provide for their disabled people.

There are many examples of good practice within LOCOG. Because of its passion for diversity and inclusion, unprecedented numbers of disabled people are applying to work for it, and the organisation has become one of the most attractive employers of choice for disabled people. That has happened because we aimed high. At the 2012 Games, the British Paralympic team will have about 300 athletes, and through them we have a once in a lifetime opportunity to showcase disability sport and to educate and enthuse the British public, who already show great support.

I recognise that the legacy of the Olympics and Paralympics is not the responsibility of the organising committee nor of the Games—I know that the noble Baroness, Lady Ford, is working on that. We know from previous Games that in the autumn of 2012 there should be a spike in participation rates in physical activity, but we need to work hard right now to maximise that, because I believe—perhaps surprisingly—that elite competitive sport is not quite for all. Involvement in physical fitness can help lead to improved learning, greater confidence and general wellness: all the things that we want for our young people.

I recognise that we have to face many challenges in sport in the tough economic times ahead. We need to ensure that all young people continue to have access to great physical activity both in and outside school; that disabled children have the right and the opportunity to be included; and that girls find the right environment in which to develop their skills to allow them to compete in the wider world. We know that currently women are employed in only one in five of the top jobs in sport. To be a successful nation, not just in sport but in business, we should challenge that, because sport is a microcosm of society.

The few weeks of the Games cannot change all these things, nor are they meant to. They are meant to be a spectacular showcase of the best that we have to offer. We all need to grasp the opportunity of the Games being on home soil to inspire our nation to think differently and to include every part of our great nation. It is an amazing opportunity for us all to pull together.

There are 807 days until the opening ceremony of the Paralympic Games and 774 days until the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games. For the athletes hoping to compete, there are perhaps 1,700 or so training sessions. There is a lot to do and much that we should hope to do. I wish the noble Lord, Lord Coe, and the noble Baroness, Lady Ford, success with their work, and wish our Paralympic and Olympic teams the best of luck in their preparations.

My Lords, it is an honour to speak in today's debate after the noble Baroness, Lady Grey-Thompson. I congratulate her on her maiden speech, which demonstrated how significant her contribution will be in this House. She is not only one of the great figures of British sport in the past 20 years, with an astonishing 11 Paralympic gold medals and six London Marathon victories, but has done much to promote sport in this country through a wide range of community and voluntary-sector initiatives, as we have heard a little about today. Her significant expertise and experience on Olympic and Paralympic issues will be a tremendous asset to the House. Many of us have watched her feats with open mouths over the years. It is indeed a pleasure now to be able to gain from that experience in our debates.

The last time we discussed the Olympics was on a spectacularly snowy evening, as I recall. Many people disappeared into the blizzard to try to get home, so it is good that it is an altogether brighter spectacle today. As usual, I declare an interest as a board member of the Olympic Delivery Authority. The broad support for the project from all sides of the House evident in the debate earlier this year shows the strength of the political consensus that exists around the successful delivery of the Games in 2012. The very fact that 2012 was barely mentioned as an issue during the general election is testament to that. Therefore, despite what the noble Lord, Lord Patten, said, I am reasonably optimistic that even the 2012 mayoral elections will stay as one on the Olympics.

I should like, first, to acknowledge the strength of the relationships across the key the 2012 delivery agencies. I pay testament to the work of noble Lord, Lord Coe, and his team at LOCOG; the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, and his team at BOA; and the noble Baroness, Lady Ford, and her team at the Olympic Park Legacy Company.

Our success to date has been built on partnership and I like to think that the whole 2012 project in all its enormity has been a coalition project before coalitions became so fashionable. We are now approaching two years to go before the Olympic and Paralympic Games begin in 2012, and there is growing interest and scrutiny of the Games’ delivery plans. I welcome today’s debate as an opportunity to give the House a progress report on the 2012 construction programme, for which the ODA is responsible.

I am pleased to tell the House that the ODA remains on time and within budget to deliver its construction programme, with more than 65 per cent of the venues and infrastructure for 2012 now complete. Personally, I remain hugely impressed by David Higgins, chief executive of the ODA, and his team. It is almost impossible not to underestimate the enormity of the task that they have undertaken. They have been utterly focused, resilient and effective since they began in 2006. As a board member, I have found it remarkable to come across so many impressive people, all working with the same commitment—whether they are engineers, the team working with local communities or logistics, or so many others. The enthusiasm is tangible.

Of course, it is the measure of their success that the media have got pretty bored. After all, where is the fun in on-time and on-budget? The continuing support of the public has been crucial in preventing the expected dip in decent and fair coverage. The detailed scrutiny in Parliament has also been a vital part of this. That is not to say that it is all done and dusted. We are 65 per cent there, but some of the most difficult parts of the construction remain. However, it is going well. It is important to remember that our target date for completion for the majority of the programme is the summer of 2011 in order that venues can be handed over for testing.

In the six months since 2012 was last debated in this House there has been significant change in the park. For example, the 14 lighting towers on the Olympic stadium have been lifted into place. The roof is going on and seats will shortly be installed. The three swimming pools in the aquatics centre have been completed and tested.

Construction is well under way across the Olympic village site, including the academy, the new world-class education campus being built within the village. The transformation from a brownfield site to a new park in London is under way, with planting starting next week in the north of the park. The work on the Olympic park is more than just another construction project; it is something that encapsulates the very best of the UK. I take this opportunity to talk briefly about one specific venue, the velopark, which epitomises that. It contains the five characteristics which are integral to and which are reflected across the whole park: notably, the commitment to regeneration and legacy; excellence in design; sustainability; accessibility; and engineering and project delivery.

The site of the velopark in the north of the Olympic site has a historic relationship with cycling. It was the home of the Eastway Cycle Circuit, a course formerly used by Olympians such as Bradley Wiggins, and now relocated to another part of east London. It was also the most contaminated part of the site as it had been a post-war tip. The 6,000-seat velodrome will host the Olympic and Paralympic indoor track cycling events in 2012, alongside the BMX circuit. After the Games, these facilities will be joined by a road-cycle circuit and a 7.5-kilometre mountain-bike course. Furthermore, you will be able to hire a cycle and bike around the park, so it will be accessible to everyone.

The legacy velopark will be unique worldwide in combining all cycling disciplines in one cycling hub, and its legacy has been developed in consultation with the cycling governing bodies and the community users. The 2012 velodrome has a perfect success model to follow in Manchester, which has become the busiest velodrome in the world, with an oversubscribed track programme, producing 40,000 rides per year for all riders—novice to elite, from 9 to 79 years old. Following the success in Beijing, cycling is one of the fastest growth sports in the UK. With a legacy operator secured—the Lea Valley Regional Park Authority—the facilities will be available for both elite and community use for generations to come.

The design team for the velopark was chosen following a lengthy competition. The shortlisted teams were assessed by a jury which featured leading names from the design world and Olympic champion Chris Hoy. This ensured that the track was designed around the needs of the athletes. Design, innovation, and creativity lie at the heart of this project and the innovative design of the velodrome has challenged the notion that velodromes have to be functional, dark, unremarkable buildings. The ODA wanted to create something special and if you drive along the A12 you will see that the velodrome dominates the skyline with its iconic roof designed to reflect the geometry of the cycling track.

We also want to make this the fastest track in the world, so the designers and contractors have procured hard-grown pine from Siberia, which will then be planed in Germany, and brought to the site in the coming months to help to create a record-breaking track. The facility is a beacon to sustainability and it has a unique cable-net roof which weighs roughly half that of any similar building, helping to create a highly efficient building. It will include the use of daylight through roof lights and external glazing which reduces the need for artificial lighting and allows natural ventilation. Also, water-saving fittings built into the design allow the collection of rainwater for reuse in the building, helping to reduce water consumption.

Ensuring accessibility to the venue presented real challenges for the design team. Most other indoor cycle tracks offer only limited accessibility as a result of the complexity of accessing all areas around the track. Our design overcomes this by adding two ramps beneath the track area which access the infield. The 6,000 seats are split above and below a fully accessible public concourse that runs around the perimeter of the trackside seating, allowing wheelchair access to the best viewing points in the venue.

The velodrome will showcase the best of UK engineering and construction with companies from across the UK coming together to build the venue. It is on time and within budget and will be the first venue on the park to be completed next year. It is being constructed by a British company, ISG, which was also responsible for replacing the track at the Manchester Velodrome. Suppliers from across the country are also involved, with the steel coming from Bolton, for example, which is providing jobs in difficult times. We are the best in the world at track cycling and we want to give our Olympians and Paralympians the best chance of success in 2012. Testing the venue for a year and training inside it will be an important part of that, so it has to be finished on time.

In conclusion, the project remains on track and within budget. It will create a park that showcases the best of UK plc in all our venues. I think we would all agree that the economic, sporting and social benefits of 2012 are already showing. When you look at the effect that the World Cup has had on South Africa, you start to grasp the effect that will be created here in 2012. The spirit of the Olympic and Paralympic Games speaks to the whole country, young and old, and is especially vital in tough times.

Finally, as my noble friend Lady Ford said earlier, I would be extremely happy to arrange visits to the site in east London for fellow Peers who have not visited the park. By seeing the construction at this stage, rather than when it is finished, you start to understand the scale of the work that has been undertaken.

My Lords, it is a great pleasure to take part in this debate. I take this opportunity to welcome the noble Baroness, Lady Grey-Thompson, from these Benches—or rather from this tier of these Benches, as I am sure my colleagues in the coalition will also take the chance to welcome her. I still keep thinking of her as Tanni Grey-Thompson rather than as a Baroness.

I got accused of being an expert on sport when I spoke in the debate on the Queen’s Speech. I told the noble Earl, Lord Howe, that I would eventually forgive him for that slight. There is expertise in this debate, and the noble Baroness encapsulates it better than just about anyone else here. I hope that we will see her speak here not only on this subject but also on disability matters. Once again, I speak with a degree of self-interest because I was disability spokesman for my party for 14 years, and I currently speak on sport. I suggest that the noble Baroness and I will be bumping into each other a fair bit in this Chamber, and I welcome her to it.

The main thrust of this debate about the Olympics is that we are getting ready and have got over the hard yards. I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Coe, used that expression when congratulating the entire Olympic movement on being fairly boring as far as the press are concerned because, as the noble Baroness, Lady Morgan, said, there were dozens of very grumpy journalists who had articles about how the Games would be delivered late and over budget. They have dumped them. We have got to encourage everybody to make sure that they have to think of something new to say. We are on the edge of being able to go for it.

No matter how great the venues are, if they are the only thing that is left, they will not touch more than a very small percentage of the population. Enthusiasm for sport in general and for participation and volunteering can be generated by these Games, which have the opportunity to go beyond a small section of the sporting public and touch those beyond that group in a way that nothing else can. We must encourage that.

When he opened this debate, my noble friend spoke about school sport. I will upbraid him slightly for that because schools cannot deliver this by themselves. People who have been involved in this for many years have always recognised that they are merely a part of it. It is the link between school-age sport and clubs that will lead to growth. I have given my noble friend a little notice that I hope that when he answers, he will let us know the intermeshing of clubs that will allow competitive sport to go on—I do not know why I am using the phrase “competitive sport”; I think non-competitive sport is simply exercise—and be a part of people’s lives. The drop-off ages are 16, 18 and 21, and it does not take a genius to work out why—that is when people stop going to institutions where sport is compulsory or easy. It does not matter about making it easy or compulsory in those places if you do not have somewhere to go. If the Government do not do this, in effect they will be systematically wasting quite a lot of money. They have got to build up the link.

Also, to be honest—and this is true of all Governments; there is nothing I am saying here that I did not say a few months ago, so I might be forgiven if I get mostly the same answer again because it is a work in progress—we must make sure that sport is taken seriously by the rest of Government, not just by the DCMS, although now that it has the Olympics it should be more coherent. However, unless the Department of Health and the Department of Education are prepared to ensure that sport really fits in, and unless local government decides that it is really going to integrate sport and allow it to have a place, it does not work. You have got to make sure that it all meshes together. In the time I have been here, this has become better understood across government; it is not a party political issue. Sport and government have got to come together.

There has got to be more drive towards this, but it is always a case of “Oh, that’s not really my responsibility”, so it does not happen. I have heard that for most of the 13 years I have been here. The whole of government as well as Ministers at the top have to make sure this happens. I have also spoken more times than I care to mention about having to punch through the Chinese walls in Whitehall to get anything done. We have to make sure that there is a central drive. If the Olympic Games achieve their potential, they will provide a wonderful way of kicking some holes in those walls and making sure that people understand what they are doing.

I will not ask my noble friend a specific question about the importance of integrating sports medicine more closely in the medical structure. All these things must take place to make up the whole, but we must remember the central theme. We have an opportunity of doing ourselves a considerable favour in the long term and of throwing the biggest party on earth. If we mess this up, we will deserve everything we get.