Coe goes on offensive over Olympic benefits

Lord Coe, chairman of the London Olympics organising committee, today launched a withering attack against the “chattering classes” and middle class “scribes”, such as former Times Editor Sir Simon Jenkins, for what he views as ill-informed criticisms of the 2012 Games.

In a strongly worded opinion piece, Coe makes a strong argument for the need to invest in sport generally, as well as in order to stage the Olympics.

“It might be nice occasionally for some of those who seem to write with such authority about this project with only the sketchiest of background or understanding to ask themselves a very simple question – what were they doing or writing to make the case for sport in London 30 years ago?” Coe, who began his stellar track career with a European Indoors 800 metres gold medal in 1977, writes in today’s Daily Telegraph.

“When some of us were raging against the selling off of playing fields and the under-investment in elite-level training and competition venues, why were the chattering classes sitting supine, allowing London to fall further and further behind not only other capital cities but behind the significantly more enlightened regional cities in this country that understood that sport could and did play a sizeable role in the economic and social regeneration of their communities.”

Coe’s article comes after a month or more of constant criticism of the London Olympics’ apparent rising costs – even though no final budget figure has yet been arrived at. As Coe points out in the article, the staging costs of the Games remains fixed at £2 billion, to be raised through commercial sponsorship and television revenues.

Other costs, such as the building of stadiums and the rejuvenation of the the eastern side of the capital, are likely to grow after miscalculations over VAT charges and the addition of at least £2 billion in infrastructure spending on the Thames Gateway project.

Lord Coe argues:

“These debates are about benefits and opportunities on the back of the Games. It’s about investment – in east London, sport, homes and jobs, none of which will be possible in the time-frame without hosting the Olympic and Paralympic Games. The Games are a catalyst for thousands of new homes and jobs. They will transform the East End, bringing transport improvements to the whole city. They will deliver massive investment in Stratford.”

“We are, of course, using existing venues wherever we can,” Lord Coe writes, apparently while in his LOCOG office at Canary Wharf. “More than 60 per cent of the venues we will use to showcase sport in 2012 exist now – Wimbledon, Lord’s, Eton Dorney. Basketball and gymnastics will showcase at the Dome. Six sports go into the Excel centre, which I can see from the office window. Just behind me is Greenwich Park, that will host equestrian sports and open that particular world to Londoners who have never had the opportunity of going to Badminton or Burleigh.

“But we do need to invest in sport facilities in London – the venues we will build are only what we need.

“They will be built in permanent mode only if we can use them afterwards. That’s why our teams at 2012 spend so much time studying the proper legacy of all our Olympic and Paralympic facilities. That work now starts apace to guarantee proper usage for the Olympic stadium once the flame at the Paralympics has been extinguished.

“The Games will change lives and not just in London. Is that an investment or a cost? If you are not sure of the answer to that, come and talk to the people of east London or visit Manchester and ask the same question about the Commonwealth Games.”

Read the full article in the Telegraph by clicking here.

Coe admits uncertainty over 2012 costs