London 2012 Olympics under threat of budget cuts

Updated: June 10, 2010, 3:08 PM ET
Associated Press

LONDON -- The 2012 London Olympics may not escape more budget cuts as Britain's new government seeks to slash public spending.

Britain's Sports Minister Hugh Robertson said Thursday he could not guarantee the Olympic budget would be spared when the government's public spending review begins in the fall.

"I cannot say categorically that there will be no adjustments," Robertson told The Associated Press. "No one can say that the state of the nation's finances are not dire, and sport and the Olympics Games are not immune from that.

"But when we look at the Olympic budget we will make an argument that reflects its importance to the nation and make sure that we deliver a successful games that Britain can be proud of, on time and under budget."

The Olympic Delivery Authority, the body responsible for building the venues for the games, was told last month its funding would be cut by $39.5 million. The overall public sector budget for the Olympics is $13.6 billion.

The ODA reduction was just a slice of the $8.7 billion in total spending cuts announced by the coalition government to trim Britain's record budget deficit.

More cuts are expected when the government's spending review takes place in the fall, when each department will have to justify its funding in what has been dubbed Prime Minister David Cameron's "star chamber."

"Every single area of government expenditure will be looked at, and we have to deliver," said Robertson, a Conservative Member of Parliament. "But the 2012 Olympics have a measure of protection in that they are an event with a clear deadline. People accept the games are here, we can't hand them back, and that they are vital for the country."

Robertson announced Thursday that British sport's share of money raised by the national lottery would increase from 16 percent to 20 percent by 2012, an increase of about $73 million a year.

The move is part of the minister's efforts to safeguard a positive future for British sport after the 2012 Olympics.

"Delivering a mass participation legacy for sport from London 2012 is one of my three top priorities," Robertson said.

He said the other two priorities were staging a successful 2012 Games and helping England win the right to host the 2018 World Cup.

Robertson also announced other changes to be made by the new British government.

A new "Major Sports Events Bill" will be introduced, which will help Britain attract big sporting events, and the main bodies that organize British sport -- UK Sport, Sport England and the Youth Sport Trust -- will be brought under one roof while keeping their areas of expertise.

Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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