London faces tough budget challenges, says Coe

reuters, Thursday 8 Dec 2011

London Olympic organisers face significant budgetary challenges in the run-up to next year’s Games, chairman Sebastian Coe said on Thursday

The double Olympic gold medallist told reporters an assertion by the National Audit Office (NAO) that London’s 9.3-billion-pound ($14.6-billion) budget was under pressure was“blindingly obvious”.

“We will be living hand-to-mouth between now and the Olympic Games,” Coe said.

“At this moment we are absolutely balanced but as you get towards the Games you know there is a build-up of pressures,” he added at a presentation of nominated torch bearers for the relay ahead of the July 27-Aug. 12 Games.

“We presented to the International Olympic Committee this morning…everybody understands the nature of the last six months.

“And if you want me to say: ‘Will this be a challenge right up to the opening and closing ceremony?’ the answer is absolutely yes it will.

“These are the hard months that everybody was predicting six years ago. We’ve raised record sums of money in the most toxic of environments that any Games has actually been delivered in. We continue to do that,” said Coe.

“But this will be tough. These next nine months are the tough yards of this campaign.”

The NAO said this week it was concerned that the venue security bill had nearly doubled to 553 million pounds. An extra 13,700 guards, including soldiers, will be needed on top of the 10,000 already planned.

The four ceremonies for the opening and closing of the Olympics and Paralympics will have their funding doubled, with 41 million pounds added to the 40 million already allocated.

“Nobody starts off on the first day of an organising committee, seven years out, knowing the answers to any number of security or transport issues,” said Coe. “It is incremental, it is sequential.

“We’re delivering a Games at a threat level that no Games has ever been delivered at,” he continued. “These are all things that come together towards the end, they are not things you could possibly have been absolutely certain about on day one.”

Coe said the funds allocated to ceremonies, criticised earlier in the week by marathon world-record holder Paula Radcliffe, would be money well spent.

“We need to communicate very positive messages to the world, and that is the ceremony that I think will make a huge difference,” he told Reuters.

“I actually think an opening ceremony that is shown to four billion people is not just a three-hour show, it is an investment in the future of this country.”

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