Olympic and Paralympic Games 2012 — Question

– in the House of Lords at 2:52 pm on 15th February 2011.

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Tabled by Lord Higgins

To ask Her Majesty's Government what steps they are taking to ensure that an athletics track remains a permanent feature of the Olympic stadium after the end of the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Photo of Lord Higgins Lord Higgins Conservative 3:00 pm, 15th February 2011

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper, and declare an interest as patron of Herne Hill Harriers.

Photo of Baroness Garden of Frognal Baroness Garden of Frognal Lords Spokesperson (Department for Culture, Media and Sport), Baroness in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

My Lords, the Olympic Park Legacy Company is responsible for determining the legacy of the Olympic stadium. Subject to its board's recommendation on the preferred bidder for the stadium being approved by its founder members, the company will move into contractual negotiations with West Ham United Football Club and the London Borough of Newham to agree acceptable terms of lease, based on the bid proposals, which included the retention of a running track.

Photo of Lord Higgins Lord Higgins Conservative

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that reply. Does she agree that it would seriously damage Britain's reputation and make it difficult for any other sports to bid successfully for major international events if we did not fulfil the obligations we undertook with the IOC regarding the Olympic legacy? Does she further agree that any contract of this kind for the future of the stadium must ensure that the track remains a permanent-rather than a temporary-feature after the contract is signed, that the facilities for field events remain and, more particularly, that the stadium is available on a regular basis for all major athletic events?

Photo of Baroness Garden of Frognal Baroness Garden of Frognal Lords Spokesperson (Department for Culture, Media and Sport), Baroness in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

My Lords, my noble friend speaks with great authority, having himself been twice a member of the Olympic team. The points he raises are all highly relevant, and they will form part of the negotiations which are under way. On the specific issue of the track being available for other events, should all the recommendations be approved, it would be possible to bid for the 2017 world athletics championships, for which expressions of interest are not expected until March.

Photo of Baroness Trumpington Baroness Trumpington Conservative

My Lords, will the Government take steps to eliminate the horse track and everything to do with the equine Olympics at Greenwich and restore Greenwich to its original, beautiful site?

Photo of Baroness Garden of Frognal Baroness Garden of Frognal Lords Spokesperson (Department for Culture, Media and Sport), Baroness in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

My Lords, I entirely respect the expertise of my noble friend, but I have to say that that is slightly outside the area of the Question and would perhaps make the subject of another Question.

Photo of Baroness Grey-Thompson Baroness Grey-Thompson Crossbench

My Lords, as may be expected, I applaud the decision to support a legacy for athletics after the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics. I declare an interest both as a member of the board of UK Athletics and as a retired athlete. Now we know that the track will be in place, what specific measures are being taken to support the bid for the 2017 world athletics championships, given the huge sporting and financial benefits that would come to the UK and given that they would present us with another opportunity to inspire a generation of young people to be fit and healthy and to excel at what they do?

Photo of Baroness Garden of Frognal Baroness Garden of Frognal Lords Spokesperson (Department for Culture, Media and Sport), Baroness in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

My Lords, I entirely agree with the noble Baroness. On the matter of supporting the bid for the 2017 world athletics championships, at this stage of the negotiations we cannot commit to that because we are still in the process of the bid being considered. I am sure that, if all the recommendations go through, that issue will be high on the agenda for the successful team.

Photo of Lord Faulkner of Worcester Lord Faulkner of Worcester Deputy Chairman of Committees, Deputy Speaker (Lords)

My Lords, the noble Baroness will be aware that there has been some cynical press comment that the moment that West Ham United Football Club takes over the stadium after the end of the Olympics, it may well find the opportunity to abandon its commitment to maintain the running track. Is she satisfied that the Government are sufficiently robust in their negotiations to prevent that happening?

Photo of Baroness Garden of Frognal Baroness Garden of Frognal Lords Spokesperson (Department for Culture, Media and Sport), Baroness in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

My Lords, I should never believe everything you read in the media. We are confident. In the words of the noble Baroness, Lady Ford, who chairs the legacy company,

"We are confident that this represents the very best legacy for the Stadium-it's good for the community of East London ... for Londoners ... for the UK taxpayer and it's a good outcome for sport".

Within the bid, there will be constraints on how the stadium can be used.

Photo of Lord Mawhinney Lord Mawhinney Conservative

My Lords, does my noble friend agree that it would be a weak and cowardly decision to reverse what the legacy organisation has already decided as far as the Olympics are concerned? Does she take seriously the point made by my noble friend Lord Higgins that this country would never again in the foreseeable future win the right to host any international sporting event if it was proved in this case that our word was not our bond?

Photo of Baroness Garden of Frognal Baroness Garden of Frognal Lords Spokesperson (Department for Culture, Media and Sport), Baroness in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

My noble friend also speaks with great expertise in these matters. At this stage of the negotiations, I regret that I must not comment further on this. We are still at a stage in the process where matters have not yet entirely been determined.

Photo of Baroness Billingham Baroness Billingham Shadow Spokesperson (Culture, Media and Sport)

The decision to ensure that the athletics track remains in the Olympic stadium would undoubtedly be right. No one could question that ethically. That was part of the bid, as has already been said, as was the pledge to hold an annual school sports Olympics in that magnificent stadium. How can the Minister reconcile that promise with the total elimination of sport from the curriculum, as proposed in the new Education Bill? Where is the next generation of Olympians going to come from if it does not get the start in school that it deserves?

Photo of Baroness Garden of Frognal Baroness Garden of Frognal Lords Spokesperson (Department for Culture, Media and Sport), Baroness in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

My Lords, as I have attempted to reassure the noble Baroness before, this Government are entirely committed to sport for young people. There has been a review of the arrangements for the school sports partnership and there are other ways in which sport in schools and competitive sport between schools and in schools are being encouraged.