'Olympics have been a huge stroke of luck'
Pramitpal Chaudhuri, Hindustan Times
New Delhi, July 29, 2010
New Delhi, July 29, 2010
Jeremy Hunt, Britain's Minister of Culture and Sports, and shadow minister with the same portfolio for three years before that, is overseeing preparations for the 2012 London Olympics and is readying for the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. He talked to Pramit Pal Chaudhuri about his experiences
On preparations for the 2012 London Olympics.
and thoughts about holding international sporting events.
We have completed 65 per cent of the construction. Eighty per cent of the contracts have been signed. We should finish all our construction one year earlier than scheduled. And, depending on how you measure it, we are within budget.
On their impact on the British economy.
The Olympics have been a huge stroke of luck. They are a huge stimulus to the economy, taking place just as Britain is in one of its worst recessions. The London Olympics are the biggest construction project in Europe right now.
On the public reaction to the expenditure.
Not unlike what India is experiencing over the Commowealth Games, there is criticism as to whether, for a few weeks' of entertainment, it is worth spending so much money. What will we be left with when it's over? The construction will help rebuild east London, places like Stratford City, full of power stations and wasteland. Thirteen of the 15 poorest electoral wards of London surround the Olympic complex. After the Olympics this area will have, among other things, the largest shopping complex in Western Europe, employing 18000 people and covering 290 acres.
On the Olympics' impact on sports.
We hope the Olympics will leave a sporting legacy in that area. The Olympic stadium will be converted into a football stadium after 2012. We're hope the stardust of the Olympics will inspire our youngsters to play more sports. Only three out of 10 British school kids play competitive sport today. We have found children love big sports stadiums. They tend to fire people up.
On the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi.
You have just over 60 days to go. I toured some of the facilities. There are lots of last minute preparation and some hiccups still to be sorted out. All such games, from my experience, follow a certain cycle. There is great excitement when you win the right to stage the games, then in the runup to the actual event there is a dip in support as the arguments buildup and the traffic is disrupted, and then there is a wave of excitement again when the games actually begin.
On the lack of star power at the Commonwealth Games.
As a government, Britain does not decided what individual sports federation do in terms of participation. The problem, as I understand it, seems to lie in the timing of the Commonwealth Games and how they don't contribute to the rankings of the international stars. I would like to resolve this issue. We have a stake, the Commonwealth Games after Delhi are in Glasgow, and attracting big names will be a challenge for us as well. We have begun trying to see how we can firmly root the games in the international sports calendar.
Advice to any government that wants to stage the Olympics.
First, get the sums right. Two years after Britain won the bidding for the Olympics we had to triple the budget. Second, give some thought to the eventual dip in public support. London hasn't seen as much of a dip as expected because of the message of the games: that this as much about the legacy of transforming east London as it is about the glory of the event.
Olympic icons throw weight behind Delhi
Siddhanth Aney, Hindustan Times
You might think having a conversation with three Knights of the British Empire (or two Knights and a Dame to be precise) would be intimidating. Lord Sebastian Coe, Sir Steve Redgrave and Dame Kelly Holmes though, on their whirlwind visit to India, were far from it. They spoke candidly about India,
Two years to go for London 2012, how do things look?
being inspiration to generations of athletes, the relevance of the Commonwealth Games, and other subjects. Excerpts from the interview:
Coe, chief of the London 2012 organising committee and the second fastest man over 800m in history: We are slightly ahead of schedule, but there is still a massive amount of work to be done. Hosting a multi-disciplinary event is a huge undertaking. It is not easy anywhere in the world, whether it is London, Atlanta or New Delhi. We've got a number of top businesses involved from the start and will keep involving the community in every step.
Coe: We were briefed on preparations, and we have seen a couple of venues. The organisers are in the best place to comment on the preparedness. There will always be difficulties, but I am sure Delhi will host a great Games.
Holmes, the third woman in the history of Olympic sport to win 800m and 1500m at the same Games; also president of Commonwealth Games, England: The people of Delhi and India are so warm and hospitable; I have no doubt they will host a fantastic event and that they will witness some great competition. Security, of course, an issue, but that is true of any venue. In India, you have the advantage of some fantastic technological expertise to deal with these concerns.
In the world of professional, big-money sport what is the relevance of the Commonwealth Games?
Redgrave, one of only four Olympians to have won a gold at five consecutive Games: It is an opportunity to showcase Olympic sports. Not everyone can be great at cricket, so when you get the opportunity to play a new sport, grab it with both hands. The most important thing is to have fun. I am a terrible golfer, but I still enjoy playing golf with friends. This will be a chance for Indians to see and hopefully experience new sports.
Holmes: The Commonwealth Games are a massive platform for athletes to experience multi-discipline events and can be a huge stepping-stone. For sports like squash and netball, this is the Olympics, so they are actually trying to be the best in the world. It's huge, and will always be relevant.
Why is it that a number of big names have pulled out of the Games?
Redgrave: The big names are not that important. Unlike the Olympics, where sometimes the gap in standard between participating teams is huge, here the playing field is more level, so it is a chance for young athletes to shine. Even if established names do not come, the level of competition will be high.
Holmes: One reason why some people have pulled out is because of scheduling. Chris Hoy(cyclist) had to pull out because of the European Championships, which is a qualifying event for the Olympics. Then there is the question of where the Games fit in with players' training schedules, so there is nothing we can do. But the Games have always been the birthplace of new stars.
How important is the legacy?
Coe: One of the main reasons that support for London 2012 has not dipped is that the revival of east London will be a major part of the Games' legacy. It is the same for Delhi. Apart from everything else, the stadia created for the Games must become a hub of sporting activity and remain so for many years.