Olympics minister explains increase in ceremonies and security budgets

PUBLIC money to the tune of �41million is going to be used to effectively double the budget for next year’s opening ceremonies at the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics.

Olympics minister Hugh Robertson admitted that security for the Games has almost doubled, to �553million, and said the decision to provide public money to the Games’ organising committee (LOCOG) was taken to the advantage of “a great national moment”.

The committee’s budget for the opening and closing ceremonies has never publicly been disclosed but it is thought to have been �40million.

“London’s opening and closing ceremonies are a once-in-a-generation opportunity to showcase the very best of our country to four billion people around the world,” said Robertson.

“To get the ceremonies absolutely right and boost the Games’ business and tourism legacy, we are putting additional investment into our ceremonies.”

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The extra �271million for venue security will arrive from the overall �9.2billion budget and there will now be 23,700 security staff coming from private firms, the military, volunteers and training schemes, instead of the 10,000 security officers originally planned for.

Robertson believes the Games will still be delivered under budget - �528million of contingency money still remains unallocated - and said the increase in security staff was as a result of a change in the international security situation, and the fact that final planning could only begin once the competition schedule and detailed design of the venues was known.

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He said: “For example when I started being minister there was no Arab Spring. No one really knows whether that’s going to have a beneficial or adverse effect on our security.

“It is pretty fluid and has created some uncertainty.

“You can say this looks like a huge increase in the security budget or you can say this is what is needed to provide a safe and secure Games.”

The security plans will cover 100 competition and non-competition venues with 30 control rooms, including the training centres and hotels for visiting teams. There will be around 2,000 X-ray machines and metal detectors and 40 miles of security fencing.

Robertson said the decision on providing public funding to the opening ceremonies was taken by himself, the Prime Minister David Cameron and culture secretary Jeremy Hunt after being provided with a range of options by LOCOG and insisted the Government were not bailing out LOCOG.

“We decided to go in at the higher figure for the benefit of the country,” said Robertson.

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