Godric Smith, who was Blair’s official spokesman when he was prime minister, is joining the project being led by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport to run a 100-strong temporary press office to handle the huge influx of international calls relating to London 2012.
Smith has been shifted sideways from his previous role as director of comms at the Olympic Delivery Authority, the body responsible for creating the roads, railways and venues for the 2012 Games.
He is being deputised by Sarah Jones, a DCMS head of comms. Smith will also work closely with Jenny Grey, the executive director of government comms.
Smith will remain in the post until after the Olympics has finished.
The press office, which will comprise staff seconded from other Whitehall departments, will operate 24/7 on a shift basis. The DCMS is currently processing the appointment of staff. A DCMS spokesman said the press officers would be expected to work ‘pretty long hours’.
PRWeek reported that a ‘concept of operations’ document had been drafted by the Government Olympic Executive, a unit within the DCMS developed to co-ordinate the 2012 Games. It suggested that Government media handling during the torch relay and Games would be managed by drawing on Whitehall press officers through the Government’s News Co-ordination Centre.
In 2010, Smith was revealed by Panorama to be one of the highest earning public sector comms people. He is credited with steering Number 10 through the Hutton Inquiry.