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IOC official dismisses `scare stories' over London Olympic costs

IOC official dismisses `scare stories' over London Olympic costs

Concerns over rising costs for the 2012 London Olympics are overblown and misleading, according to the IOC official overseeing preparations for the games.
International Olympic Committee executive board member Denis Oswald said there was confusion between the operational costs of staging the two-week games and the long-term infrastructure expenses.
"If these scare stories were true, we might wonder why an increasing number of cities, and prestigious cities at that, continue to want to be host of the Olympic Games," Oswald said a sports conference Tuesday in London.
"Are the people who run these cities stupid or irresponsible for wanting to waste so much money, especially public money? It is difficult to imagine that all the cities bidding to host the Olympic Games are managed ineptly."
Costs have risen since London won the bid in July 2005. Olympics Minister Tessa Jowell said in November that infrastructure costs had increased by 900 million pounds (US$1.8 billion; euro1.3 billion) from the 2.38 billion pounds (US$4.7 billion; euro3.6 billion) figure quoted in the bid. Some British lawmakers have speculated the total cost could reach more than 8 billion pounds (US$15.9 billion; euro12.2 billion).
Oswald, who also oversaw preparations for the 2004 Athens Olympics, said stories of "so-called project overruns" were common because the media "like to depict the games as a financial black hole."
"The games will leave behind them a legacy which is well worth the sum invested and the efforts made," Oswald said. "I do not know of any city which regrets to have been a host of the Olympic Games."
Oswald said in contrast to Atlanta, which "did not invest one dollar" for the 1996 Olympic Games, London's decision to develop a large chunk of the run-down East End suburb of Stratford into the Olympic Park was "one of the largest and most spectacular (Olympic legacies) in history."
"The scale of this project is so great that it could only begin with an event of global importance like the Olympic Games that will bring the necessary impetus," he said.
Oswald, who will meet with London organizers Feb. 28-March 1, said it was misleading to include such projects in the cost of the games.
"In reality, they are mostly investments which the city needs anyway, which would have to be done now or later in the future and are just simply concentrated into a short period of time ahead of the Olympics," he said.
Olympic budgets tend to increase markedly from those listed in the bid book.
The entire budget, including infrastructure, for Athens was nearly euro9 million (US$11.6 billion) _ double the original estimate. The 2000 Sydney Olympics cost US$1.5 billion (euro1.2 billion) after cost overruns, and both cities are still paying for the upkeep of unused stadiums.
The privately financed Atlanta Games cost US$1.72 billion (euro1.3 billion).
In December, Canadian taxpayers finally finished paying for the Olympic Stadium used for the 1976 Montreal Games. The final price tag for the Olympic Park was about US$1.28 billion (euro970 million).
Beijing organizers have said a total of approximately US$40 billion will be spent on venues, transport, urban renewal, environmental protection and other projects for the 2008 Olympics.