Lord Coe: You Ask The Questions

The head of London's 2012 Olympic organising committee answers questions such as 'Why don't you ditch the logo?' and 'How fast can you run these days?'
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The Independent Online

Name three Britons who you think will win gold medals at the Games. DAVID SAVAGE, London W4

Five years out from the Games, it's too early to tell. Much will depend on selection and performances in Beijing in 2008. There's really no substitute for getting Olympic experience - I believe my performances in Moscow in 1980 would have been greatly helped if I'd the experience of competing in Montreal in 1976 under my belt.

How can a budget triple so quickly even before any work has actually started? SILAVAIN BUCHE, by email

Let's be clear about the budget. The core Olympic Games budget, to build the venues and infrastructure for the Games, is £3.1bn - broadly within the envelope of the costs we submitted in our bid. We've always said that bringing the Games to east London provides an opportunity to regenerate one of the most underdeveloped parts of the UK so we make no apology for developing a regeneration budget to do just that - this often gets included in the Games "budget". The budget also contains £2.7bn of contingency, which is prudent in projects of this size - and may never get spent.

How should people in the North feel about funding the London bid? CHRIS MENAND, by email

The action in 2012 won't just be in London - more than a quarter of our venues are outside London, including football at Old Trafford and Hampden Park in Scotland. The Torch Relay will also travel the length of the country, and we're hoping to make all the action available on live sites around the country. I hope everyone will feel part of 2012.

What proportion of lottery money has been diverted into supporting the Olympics? MIKE WOOLDRIDGE, Henfield, West Sussex

When the Government announced the Olympic Games and regeneration budgets , it explained that £2.2bn would come from the Lottery. The Government and the Mayor of London recently announced that a Memorandum of Understanding had been developed to ensure that, after the Games in 2012, any profits from the sale of Olympic Park land will be reimbursed to Lottery funds.

Which is harder - politics or international athletics? BRIAN KARLSON, by email

You have to be nimble and agile on your feet in both. I'm lucky to have experienced the highs and lows in both athletics and politics, and they have led me to my current job. If a week is a long time in politics though, it is a very short time in the life of an Organising Committee.

Aren't you worried the Olympics will be a natural target for terrorists? LUCY INGLEBY, Norwich

London has a strong track record in safely hosting and staging major events, from cup finals and concerts at Wembley, to Wimbledon, to the recent Tour De France. We have one of the best police forces in the world and have the security and intelligence expertise to enable us to safely stage the big events that our great capital city deserves.

What contingency plans do you have if transport links are not ready on time for the Games? DAVID WITHERS, London W4

Transport went from a perceived "achilles heel" during the time of the bid campaign to one of our great strengths. We want 2012 to be the "public transport games", and are absolutely confident the public transport system, not just in London, but around the UK, will be ready and able.

Why have you refused to ditch an Olympics logo that not only looks cheap, but was even a health hazard? CHARLES PETER, Derby

The logo itself wasn't a health hazard - the issues involving photosensitive epilepsy were caused by five seconds of animated footage we used as part of a launch film and we obviously regret any problems that may have caused The logo is undoubtedly very different from any other host city's logo - and that was deliberate. Our logo is bold and brave because our Games will be bold and brave. It's a very flexible logo, designed for the multi-media, digital age, and one which will evolve over time so it is as fresh in 2012 as it is today.

What possible justification can there be for handing blank cheques to consultants? DAVID GANZ, by email

None - and we have no intention of doing that.

Is it true you used to wrestle with William Hague? What was that like? RICHARD BEVAN, Canterbury

I was William's Chief of Staff and he's still a good friend. I only did judo with him a few times.

I'm not interested in sport and find the Olympics unutterably dull. Why should I be paying for them? SHAUN WISE, Newcastle

We've got five years to change your mind, and I hope we can - and we have absolutely no intention of staging a dull Games. And 2012 isn't just about a summer of sporting celebration - it is about confirming the UK's position as a great place to visit, to do business, or to study, and to maximise the economic, social and health benefits of the Games for the whole country.

Isn't the Olympic movement just a bit tarnished by rampant commercialism? JANE MARTIN, Norwich

The Olympic Games and Paralympic Games, unlike other major sporting events, have a "clean arena" policy, so that means that no advertising can be displayed inside a venue. This makes the Games less overtly commercial than many other major events, and the Olympic brand and ideals are as true today as they ever have been. But commercial sponsorship has a massive role to play in delivering the Games and a long tradition of supporting the Olympic movement. Part of my job at the moment is to raise £2bn of private funding to host and stage the Games in London and 2012.

After all the drugs scandals, hasn't athletics lost all credibility? JOSHUA FLEET, London

Although some high-profile cheats have been exposed, I believe that the sport still has a soul and that athletes can and are reaching the top without taking drugs.

Haven't we learnt that trying to bring about regeneration by huge building projects doesn't work? JOHN BURLEY, by email

It's too simplistic to look at the regeneration of East London as simply a giant building project. The Games will herald major changes from the area - by transforming the area into the largest urban park in Europe for more than 150 years. Waterways will be revived and new wildlife habitats created as we restore the natural ecology of the area. After the Games, the park will be home to world-class sporting facilities. A range of transport improvements are already underway, with an extension. Economically, the area will be transformed with up to 12,000 new jobs created in the park alone.

The Olympic Village, where the athletes will stay during the Games will be converted into apartments. In all, 9,000 new homes will be built within the park and many of the facilities will remain long after the Olympic Games have gone.

There was no increase in participation in sports in Manchester following the Commonwealth Games. Why will the Olympics be any different? ALAN GILCHRIST, Edinburgh

The key difference is that we are planning for Games and legacy in tandem, and have been from day one of this project.

Improving both elite sporting performance and grassroots sports participation in this country is a key part of the sporting legacy we want to leave, long after the final race has been run.

Are you depressed about the terrible state of British middle-distance running? CHARLOTTE BROOKS, by email

Improvements in sport don't happen overnight - it's a long cycle, and dependent on the right coaching and structures within the sport and the passion and hunger of the athletes - but there is no reason why we can't improve significantly by 2012.

Are you still in touch with Steve Ovett? How would you describe your relationship with him? BRIAN KELLY, Northampton

Yes, though, as Steve's living in Australia, I don't see him as much as I'd like to.

How fast can you run these days? SUE FREEDMAN, by email

I still exercise every day, and run several times a week, although I won't be breaking any more world records anytime soon. I also cycle and enjoy competing against my great friend Daley Thompson on two wheels these days.

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