Opinion: Time the Olympics left the political arena

As the cash-tills ring to the sound of billions of pounds of taxpayers' money, one thing is certain about the 2012 London Olympics: it is a comms nightmare that will outlive the Games.

The glory (for some) of putting one over on the French is well and truly over, and with it the brief honeymoon when the consummation of the deal, rather than the cost, made the headlines.

Those charged with handling comms for the Olympics face three major problems. First, the public are rightly sceptical about the Government's ability to account for the cost. Witness the grotesque overspends on the Dome, the Scottish Parliament and Wembley Stadium.

Second, there is a bewildering ­array of Olympic stakeholders: ­Government, Mayor, London Assembly, Olympic Delivery Authority, National Lottery, etc - all of which compete for share of voice, and ­appear to contradict one ­another in the process.

Third, the very team that brought the Olympics to London comprises the same people who a decade ago were zealously selling off school sports fields and declaring competitive games to be the enemy of opportunity for all. Step forward, Ken and Tessa.

Even the announcements that costs have doubled 16 months in were contradictory and murky. Emerging from the fog was a likely figure of £5bn rather than the original £2.4bn. No one of sound mind would bet against the £5bn doubling well before the first starting gun.

What is needed is a clear and ­co-ordinated comms strategy transparently free of government and mayoral spin. It needs implementing by one trusted group ­without fear of counter-briefings from ‘rival' stakeholders seeking political points.

Somehow the whole enterprise has to be taken out of politics, not least because there is likely to be a change of government - and possibly of mayor, too - before 2012.

The awarding of contracts, agreed prices and deadlines must all be communicated transparently along with all other costs. The public must see the unfolding balance-sheet constantly weighed against the deliverable benefits to the UK of the Games.

Let there be one figure - an Olympic Tsar - above suspicion, who puts his or her name to the whole cost, value and benefit of the project. And, for the glory of the Games and the UK, give us one upfront-cost figure, and stick to it, rather than the cynicism-inducing drip-feed of additional spending.

Communicate the true cost now - and let the taxpayers be the impartial judge of their value.

Ian Monk is founder of Ian Monk Associates and was formerly a senior newspaper executive at the Daily Mail and The Sun.

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