Former Olympian Graham Watts warns skills shortage could scupper UK's chances of hosting 2012 Games
London's bid to host the 2012 Olympics will help tackle the construction industry's skills crisis, according to a leading trade body.

Construction Industry Council chief executive Graham Watts said the bid, confirmed by the government last week, could be used as a platform to attract new blood into the industry.

He said: "We must ally the effort put into the bid with the effort to get the skills. The construction industry should use the Olympics to excite young people into believing they can be involved in the greatest show on earth."

Watts said that it was vital for the industry to learn from the mistakes made in Athens, where a skills shortage is affecting construction work for next year's Olympics.

Watts, who captained the British sabre team in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics and manages the British fencing team, visited Athens recently with a British Olympic Association delegation. He said: "Athens has a terrible skills shortage and is behind its building schedule. We need to get the industry to understand that the London bid is a huge opportunity for new work – but a skills shortage could also be a major problem in the UK."

Watts cast doubt on the capital's ability to host the games unless improvements were made to its transport infrastructure. He said: "I personally think the success of the bid is bound up with CrossRail. Without it, the London Olympics would be chaotic."

The proposed £7-11bn link between Heathrow and the Olympic site at Stratford, is awaiting government backing – but the government is delaying a decision because of costs.

CABE and the Construction Confederation also said CrossRail would need to be built if a London Olympic bid was to be successful.

Consultant Arup, however, disagrees. Last year it carried out a government-sponsored cost-benefit analysis and concluded that the capital could handle the Olympics without CrossRail – although Arup director Mark Bostock said events would have to be scheduled outside the rush hour.

  • David Morley Architects has been appointed to design a £13m athletics training stadium on the site of proposed Picketts Lock venue in north London, which was axed in 2001.

    The stadium, which is a joint venture between UK Athletics and the Lee Valley Regional Park Authority, could be used during the 2012 Olympics if the games were held in London, but is not tied to the Olympic bid.

    Probable key sites for Olympic bid

    • Football stadium at 90,000 capacity Wembley Stadium
    • Velodrome at Hackney Marshes
    • Olympic arena on site of Hackney Stadium
    • Olympic village likely to be built at Mill Meads, less than a mile from Stratford station
    • Dome £130m refit includes gymnastic arena
    • Olympic swimming pool at London Fields
    • Charlton Athletic ground for hockey events.