David Higgins plays down ‘big rumour’ that he is contender to head up the Olympic Delivery Authority

English Partnerships chief executive David Higgins has emerged as a contender to head up the Olympic Delivery Authority for the London 2012 games.

Bid insiders are speculating that the Australian, who had a key role in the delivery of the Sydney Games in 2000 when he was chief executive of developer Lend Lease, could be a frontrunner for what is arguably the most important construction programme in British history.

A well-placed source said: “There is a big, big rumour about this. In terms of regeneration – given his involvement in Lend Lease which was so close to the Sydney Olympics – no name comes bigger than that of David Higgins.

“Another option is someone who was involved with the Manchester Commonwealth Games, but Higgins is an obvious choice.”

Another insider said: “It is an open secret that EP has been trying to hang on to him as they are worried the job may not be interesting enough for him now EP is moving in the right direction. Perhaps they may try to offer him a split role between the Olympic body and EP.”

However, Higgins played down the speculation and said he was committed to his EP role.

He said: “There is no job offer to my knowledge. I’m perfectly happy at EP and have a contract for another two and a half years. We don’t yet know what the Olympic bill will say and I’m already on the legacy committee anyway and have been for a while. I wouldn’t commit to anything now.

“Let’s just see what the legislation is like when it comes out in terms of what role EP might play.”

Meanwhile, UCATT general secretary Alan Ritchie is to meet Olympics minister Tessa Jowell to try to ensure enough apprentices are trained to deliver the 2012 games.

Employers federations such as the National Federation of Builders have already warned that the delivery of the Games may be at risk because of a shortage of qualified workers. The federation claimed that construction already needed an additional 430,000 workers a year to meet demand.

Ritchie said he had been concerned by comments from contractors claiming that the use of foreign labour would be a solution for the chronic undersupply of skilled tradesmen.

He said: “We have the time to train the workers to deliver the Olympics, we shouldn’t just rely on a foreign influx.”

Ritchie said that it would be possible to write into contracts a clause that forces companies to train local workers, a system being considered by regeneration agency Liverpool Vision.