£380m – the price of keeping the Olympic Press sweet?

£380 million is an “astonishing” amount of money, according to London Mayor Boris Johnson, but well worth it if it avoids the media attacking the 2012 London Games as they did the 1996 Olympics.

Johnson today made his first appearance as London Mayor in front of the Members of Parliament on the Culture, Media and Sports Select Committee at Westminster.

As well as speaking about the legacy use of the London Olympic Stadium, Blackberry devices for all Olympic ticket-holders, an austerity drive caused by the credit crunch and his concept of a “fun” Games, Johnson also talked about the high cost of providing an adequate Main Press Centre.

Sometime Telegraph columnist Johnson clearly respects the power of the Press, even if his Olympic history is a little confused.

Justifying the high cost of the Main Press Centre, London, Johnson said, has “got to deliver a centre which is useful because otherwise the media will attack the London Games as they did in Atlanta”, apparently overlooking the criticisms of the organisation of the 1996 Games which ranged far more widely than such parochial self-interest.

Johnson said London was not intimidated by the success of the Beijing Olympics, and would make the Games more entertaining for spectators. “The IOC doesn’t want London to produce a carbon copy,” Johnson said. “We can produce a Games just as good, if not better, without wasting a lot of money.”

Johnson revealed that LOCOG is considering issuing all visitors to the Olympic Park with handheld, Blackberry-type devices to provide up-to-date information on forthcoming events and action replays of that day’s action. At non-peak times at Olympic venues, children should be allowed into the park.

The Beijing Olympics were “fantastic”, Johnson said, but 2012 “…will be very, very different, much, much more fun.

“It’s my intention that central London will be the place that people come to hang out and spend their money before they go to the various Olympic sites around London. It will be more of a party atmosphere, a festival atmosphere.”

British journalists who were accredited and attended the Beijing Olympics or Paralympics and who want to help influence the management and facilities provided in 2012 are invited to attend one of a series of debrief workshops being organised by LOCOG.

For more details of these sessions and how to apply, click here.

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