An Olympic record? Games set to be under budget

With six weeks to go, organisers say they hope to return up to £476m to Treasury

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The Independent Online

With 43 days until the Games, the Government still has £476million left of its Olympic contingency fund, and ministers are "increasingly certain" they will deliver the event for "less than £9billion", significantly below the £9.3bn that was agreed in 2007.

One cost that has risen, however, is an extra £19m to be spent on stewarding, barriers and temporary pedestrian bridges around Hyde Park and Greenwich Park.

The Sports Minister, Hugh Robertson, said that the size of the crowds that have massed around the Olympic torch, and particularly the Diamond Jubilee celebrations, at which more than a million people were undeterred by the terrible weather, had caused Olympic officials to increase the amount of stewarding they needed.

"You have to consider that London is going to be a single sporting and cultural attraction, and it is going to be the place to come and have a summer party," he said.

"We can say precisely how many people will be attending Olympic venues because we know the number of tickets sold, and we know how many people there will be in London. But nobody knows just how many people are going to get on a train or on a ferry or plane and turn up."

Seventy-six million pounds will now be spend on managing crowds, significantly up on the £50m that had originally been put aside.

The Government was widely criticised in December when it announced the security costs had risen to close to £1bn, at a comparatively late stage in the day. That the same has happened with stewarding, albeit on a lesser scale, is a source of some embarrassment, though Mr Robertson said that, given the extra costs are a response to the vast crowds at the jubilee and the torch relay, "you could say we were managing success."

Whatever remains from the £476m at the end of the Paralympic closing ceremony will be returned to the treasury by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, and not retained to be spent on sport as some had hoped.

The quarterly report, published yesterday, revealed that a total of £183m of public money has now been passed to Lord Coe's Locog, the committee responsible for organising the games, which is technically a private company and cannot be subject to Freedom of Information requests. Its £2bn budget is supposed to come from ticket sales and sponsorship. The Sports Minister insisted the £183m is primarily for last-minute building works and that it is "against intended scope", in that the money should have come from the public purse anyway.

The approximately £9bn cost to the public is considerably more than the £2.4bn promised in the 2005 bid. But that figure, Mr Robertson said, "didn't include security, contingency, VAT or regeneration costs." It is sizeably less than the £22bn that the Beijing Olympics are widely believed to have cost, and marginally less than the £9.4bn spent on Athens.

Higher, lower... the changing budget

£2.4bn Original estimate of cost of Games (2005)

£9.3bn Revised budget announced in 2007

£8.82bn Latest prediction of actual expenditure