August 19, 2008 / 4:14 PM / 11 years ago

London mayor promises value for money in 2012

LONDON (Reuters) - The global credit crunch and a threatened recession will not prevent London delivering a spectacular Olympics in 2012 but the Games will have to give value for taxpayers’ money, mayor Boris Johnson said on Tuesday.

London's Mayor-elect, Boris Johnson, speaks after signing the "Declaration of Acceptance of Office" for the Mayor of London, at City Hall in central London in this May 3, 2008 file photo. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor

Johnson said he was undaunted by the challenge of matching the pageantry of the Beijing Olympics, whose ceremonies and facilities have awed participants and spectators.

“We have all seen what the Chinese have done. It has been fantastic. But I am not intimidated by that. We can have a show that is equally as fantastic without wasting money,” he told BBC radio.

“I am not convinced that there aren’t still some sensible savings we can make without remotely prejudicing our ability to deliver a fantastic Games,” he added.

It will be the third time London has hosted the modern Olympics, previously held there in 1908 and 1948.

The projected cost has already nearly quadrupled to 9.3 billion pounds from the 2.4 billion estimate set out in the city’s winning bid in 2005. On Tuesday in Beijing, Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell said no more money would be made available.

Johnson said he believed Olympic chiefs would understand the changed economic environment since London was awarded the Games.

“This was a project, an Olympic Games, that was won, secured, commissioned at a time of economic plenty. We’re being asked to deliver it in a credit crunch and with what people say is a recession looming,” Johnson said.

“The International Olympic Committee understands that. We are not going to produce an austerity games, we are not going to run the thing down but we are going to deliver value for money.”

Johnson, who is due in Beijing for the closing ceremony on Sunday, said his staff would over the next few months be looking at cutting out unnecessary expenditure on the Olympic site under construction in east London.

Earlier on Tuesday he opened a 4.5 million pound cycling centre. The Conservative mayor said he hoped it would inspire further success in a sport which Britain has dominated in Beijing, helping it to third place in the overall medals table.

The centre has a 1.25 mile (2 km) circuit, off-road trail and club house and is designed for both competition and community use — part of a strategy to deliver a longer-term legacy from hosting the Games.

Johnson praised the performance of the British athletes in Beijing and said there would be a special parade for them in London on October 16, with a reception at Buckingham Palace.

Editing by Mark Trevelyan

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