(R98) Jowell: Don't disrupt crucial Olympic visit

by Matthew Beard - The Independent, Saturday 12 February 2005


(week starting Monday 14 February 2005)


Presentation by leaders of London 2012 for most of the day in a hotel, exact location unknown.


Site visit[s] which will take them to proposed Olympic venues, including the Dome and Greenmwhich Park and proposed Olympic Park in lower Lea Valley. The Inspectors will be taken by 4x4 along the route of the unfinished Channel tunnel rail link between Stratford and St Pancras.


Meeting at No. 10, dinner at Buckingham Palace with the Queen.


Press conference given by the IOC, chaired by Gilbert Felli, Olympic Games executive director.


Depart from Heathrow.

An artists impression of a statue of an athlete to be unveiled in Trafalgar Square next weekend.

Tessa Jowell and Lord Coe opening the 2012 Olympic bid in the capital.

TESSA JOWELL has told campaigners opposed to London's bid to stage the Olympic Games that any attempt to sabotage the project would "ruin the dreams" of the vast majority of Britons.

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport said protesters had a duty not to disrupt a crucial visit to London next week by an inspection team from the International Olympic Committee (IOC), which marks the beginning of the final stage of electioneering.

"I say to those with an axe to grind, don't spoil it for the vast majority of people in this country who want the Olympics," said Ms Jowell. She was referring to nolondon2012, a group of environmental activists and anti-globalisation campaigners threatening direct action during the four-day visit by the IOC's evaluation commission which starts on Wednesday.

During their four-day visit to the capital, the 14-strong "evaluation commission", led by Nawal El Moutawakel, the Moroccan former Olympic women's hurdles champion, will scrutinise the bid blueprint on all fronts. Their schedule, which has been kept secret due to security concerns, is largely taken up by a series of presentations on 17 themes, ranging from transport and budgets to security and media facilities, and will require an Olympian's powers of endurance.

Having completed their inspection of Madrid a week ago, the same team will make further visits to weigh up the technical merits of New York, Paris and Moscow by mid March. Along the way the team, comprising IOC members and technical advisors. will prepare its 20-page report on each city, which will be distributed to members a month before the 6 July vote in Singapore.

However, during the commission's visit, nolondon2012 is planning a series of demonstrations, including the occupation [of] buildings and tall monuments in order to unfurl anti-Olympic banners.

There will also be a special Olympic version of the Critical Mass bike ride, a regular anti- car event in which thousands of cyclists disrupt central London traffic. Protesters plan to ride from the Greater London Authority's headquarters on the South Bank to Stratford in east London on Friday night.

The focal point of the protests the next day will be in Stratford, near the site of the proposed Olympic park. Campaigners will be encouraged to dress as competitors in three-legged, egg-and-spoon or sack races. The demonstrations could be damaging because the IOC is sensitive to local opposition, particularly if it is from within the catchment area of the main venues.

In an interview with The Independent, Ms Jowell hit back at the protesters:

"People have the right to express their view but they have no right to ruin people's dreams. They have raised their objections but I think we can answer every one."

In answer to concerns about the ecology of the lower Lea Valley near Stratford, which is earmarked for the Olympic park, Ms Jowell said a London Olympics could be "the greenest Games ever". She also attacked opponents for peddling "myths" about a London Games, dismissing claims that te legacy benefits for the deprived local community had been exagerrated and that Londoners would be subjected to oppressive security measures.

Doubtless the commission will raise the question of Pickett's Lock. Havng won the bid to stage the 2005 World Athletics Championships in Pickett's Lock, north London, the Government then told the International Association of Athletics Federations that it could not afford to stage the event.

"I think we have been forgiven for Pickett's Lock by the IOC," she said. "The Commonwealth Garnes were a huge success and convinced every. body in the international fed- eraUons that we can mount major sporting events in a way. which sets a new standard. We made mistakes way back over Pickett's Lockand'M!mbleybut we have learnt our lessons."

The Olympic bid team believes it has begun to convince its electorate - the 118 voting IOC members - that public transport which they branded "often obsolete" in a report last May, will be more than adequate in seven years time. Ms Jowell claims that with £17bn planned investment for projects ranging from Heathrow airport's Tenninal Five to the completion of the Channel tunnel rail link. London would leave Paris behind. "We have got to stop talking down our transport. It's a strength, not a weakness," she said.

Rivals from other bid cities are beginning to seize on London's budgetary plans, playing on perceptions that the Government is not as committed as rival cities. Ms Jowell conceded that by raising the funds through the National Lottery, other good causes such as arts and heritage projects may suffer. If London wins, it is estimated that a new lottery game dedicated to the Olympics may reduce funding for other good causes for the years immediately running up to the games.

"People in the UK know how the Games are going to be paid for and have the information about the actual consequences of winning the Games which I don't think other cities have in the same degree of detail," she said.

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14/2/05 Last updated 14/2/05