(P111) Blair goes for Olympic win

by Denis Campbell - The Observer, 11 May 2003

A TEAM of Britain's sporting greats will help Tony Blair launch London's bid to host the Olympic Games in 2012.

Five-time Olympic gold medal-winning rower Sir Steve Redgrave, team mate Matthew Pinsent, sprinter Dwain Chambers and Paralympic legend Tanni GreyThompson are among the stars who will help boost the campaign.

Tomorrow Blair is to meet Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell, who has been pushing Cabinet colleagues to back a bid for the 2012 Games, to agree the final details of Britain's campaign.

Whitehall sources say the PM has overcome initial scepticism about London's chances of beating off competition from Paris, Moscow, New York and Madrid, and is now enthusiastic.

They say he sees a determined bid to stage the Games as an opportunity to show that Britain is a successful modern country. He believes they could aid the regeneration of a large swath of the capital's rundown East End and is convinced London has a good chance of winning.

The bid is at last ready to get the green light after several postponements, now that Ministers have thrashed out a funding package to cover the cost of staging the Games with the Greater London Authority and Camelot, which runs the National Lottery.

Under it London council taxpayers would contribute up to £800 million, the London Development Agency up to £500m and the Lottery another £1 billion of the total £2.3bn potential cost. However, The Observer understands that Ken Livingstone, London's mayor, is considering extending the capital's congestion charge scheme to include drivers going to Heathrow airport, and then using the money raised for the Olympics.

The idea has been discussed recently by senior GLA figures after a plan to levy a supplement on the business rates paid by London firms to help fund 2012 was scrapped. Heathrow congestion charge income could be earmarked to cover any overrun in the anticipated £2.3bn cost.

Meanwhile, Ministers and the GLA are narrowing down a list of about 60 business leaders who may become chairman of the Olympic bid. A shortlist of three will be decided shortly and the trio interviewed separately by Jowell and Livingstone.

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11/5/03 Last updated 11/5/03