More openness about the Olympics delivery might lead to less excitement over every minor overspend and a recognition of the organisation's wider successes
This summer the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) will make a rather surprising announcement: it hasn’t eaten into its contingency budget.
Sure, certain contingencies on a project-by-project basis – the Olympic stadium, almost certainly – will have been spent. But the £2bn or so put to one side in case of any major programme problems remains safe.
There are some firms involved in parts of the Olympics who are not even allowed to admit that they are working on the Games at all
That is a bit of a shock, isn’t it? In recent weeks I have reported on two cost increases at the Olympic stadium and village, while other hacks have written far more extensively on the budget problems over the past couple of years.
What the ODA and, more significantly, the partnering CLM consortium have been doing is juggling the costs around the Olympic Park. Sure, many of the venues are likely to go over budget. But there have been savings elsewhere, including a couple of hundred million quid in procurement alone: steel has been bought up before it is needed to avoid inflationary hikes.
Whenever a journalist gets a scoop on a budget being busted, the rarity value of that story turns it into an even greater exclusive
The problem for the guys running all this is the secrecy surrounding the Games. The London 2012 press office will give little useful comment, and there are very few decent steers for journalists. As I understand it, there are some firms involved in parts of the Olympics who are not even allowed to admit that they are working on the UK Games at all.
Therefore, whenever a journalist gets a scoop on a budget being busted, the rarity value of that story turns it into an even greater exclusive. In reality, the ODA might well be doing a fantastic job at tackling costs. The problem is that we really don’t know for sure.
On a side note, I wonder if Ken Livingstone might try to snaffle some sort of advisory role on the Games. The success of London’s Olympic bid is certainly the achievement with which he most wants to be associated, and it was Livingstone who pushed and pushed for the location to be east London so that the Games could be used for regeneration.
Mark Leftly works on the business desk of the Independent on Sunday. Construction and infrastructure are two of the beats he covers on the newspaper. Mark's views should not be confused as being those of the Independent on Sunday.