Back in the uncertain days of January, when Gerald's was the lone voice dissenting from the positive report of the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee that he chairs, his scepticism, although misplaced, was perhaps understandable. After all, there were still unanswered questions – would the government back the bid? Would we get a decent chair to lead the bid to success? But now that the answer to these questions is a resounding yes, Gerald's regular diatribes against the project risk looking increasingly like sour grapes.
Inevitably, Gerald's complaints start with the money. He asks why two figures – £17m and £30m – have both been attached to the bid. The reason is simple: one is the estimated cost, and the other includes a contingency and a fund to pay for incidental extras that will support it, such as hosting other sporting events. It's sensible to make allowances for such scenarios and it is only fair to make these figures public.
There is no reason to assume that the total estimated cost of hosting the games will exceed the estimated maximum of £2.3bn. It's true that the costs of the games in Sydney and Athens overran initial estimates, but those working on costing the London Olympics proposal learned from those experiences. Indeed, in their scrutiny of the costing of the games, the Culture, Media and Sport committee said it was "confident that the government has undertaken more and better appraisal than previous bidders". Gerald is the chair of this committee.
Of course, we haven't always got things right in this country, and readers will not need to be reminded of major public projects that have gone wrong. But recent examples have proved that Britain can deliver. The London congestion charging scheme, one of the biggest public sector IT projects of recent times, was delivered on time and to budget. I've also just reopened Trafalgar Square after a £25m transformation, again completed on time and within budget, and although the Millennium Bridge wobbled, the stunning Hungerford Bridges certainly don't.
There is every reason to feel positive about London's Olympic bid. No less a figure than Jacques Rogge, chair of the International Olympic Committee, has called the capital a frontrunner. The bid has full government backing. The bid chair, Barbara Cassani, is widely admired for building up budget airline Go from scratch and on a strictly limited budget.
Once, Gerald’s scepticism, though misplaced, was understandable. Now his regular diatribes against the project risk looking increasingly like sour grapes
Behind the scenes, planning for the games continues apace. Six world-class consortiums have been shortlisted for the masterplanning of the Lower Lea Valley. They have outstanding credentials in regeneration and sporting projects, and have shown enormous enthusiasm for the Olympics. I'm sure that the successful candidates will produce a plan for the Lower Lea Valley and that will capture the public imagination and form the basis for an impressive technical bid.
Key to the whole scheme will be the venues – an aquatics centre and warm-up track, which will be given to the community after the games, an athletics stadium that Premiership sides have expressed an interest in taking over, and an Olympic village of 4000 homes that could ease our key-worker housing crisis. But there will be no thoughtless building frenzy – the plan will respect and enhance the very precious green spaces in the East End.
These benefits to the communities of east London make the Olympics well worth the fight. As well as enormous physical improvements to the Lea Valley, the Olympics will bring 5000 jobs. With unemployment rates in Newham and Tower Hamlets running at 46%, the highest levels in the UK, the games offer a unique chance for a sustained effort to reverse years of neglect and the corrosive effect of long-term unemployment.
There would be spin-offs, too, for the rest of London and the rest of the UK, with tourists using the London Olympics as a starting point for visits to the rest of the UK's attractions from St Ives to St Andrews, and the visiting Olympic teams setting up training camps all over the country.