The Sketch: A gold medal for running away from the question

A lot of us wonder what happened to Chris Langham, the funniest character in the funniest sitcom, The Thick Of It. There were personal troubles, if you remember, a little time spent in the nick. And he is repaying his debt to society by heading up the Olympic Delivery Authority. I'm sure it's him. The same long, disappointed face and plausible voice. He's adopted the stage name of John Armitt but he can't fool me.

Improvising freely in admin-speak, he told the committee how preparations for the Olympics were going: on budget, on time, on schedule. It was the deadpan delivery that did it. You can see why he wins comedy awards. His answers to questions couldn't have been scripted more accurately.

Is there to be a temporary media centre, the chairman asked. Armitt's answer was split into parts and ran off in all directions.

They were looking at a variety of options, he said. That the best balance was being sought between having one centre or more than one. That everyone was working for the optimum legacy. That the legacy opportunity was to be maximised and costs to be controlled going into the legacy opportunity.

He sounded just like a real chairman of a non-governmental body. We were in stitches. One criticism: not enough swearing. The administrative kindling needs a few sparky obscenities to catch fire.

Tessa Jowell came to the committee as well. Unless it was Kristin Scott Thomas with some prosthetic complications. Fetching, she was, in a very black jacket and a clever hair cut. That little lisp she has, she'd make a sensational seven-year-old.

She was asked whether, in view of the recession, we were going to have an Austerity Games, as in 1948, when our athletes trained on lardy cake and Woodbine cigarettes. Certainly not, she said. These are to be the Everyone's Games. The what? I refer you to the previous answer. "They're everyone's, in that everyone is going to pay for it," Adam Price observed.

Not necessarily. Tessa is not going to give up on private-sector money, or Government money, or indeed "a source beyond government". Ah yes, the fabled Money Vine that grows bullion by the billion. It's somewhere in Armenia, you know.

She was very encouraging about how much money was being cut from the budget. The recession is helping them make swingeing cuts to labour costs. I hope Gordon Brown wasn't listening, he's trying to get public money spent, not saved. It made Tessa sound like a Tory. Actually, it suits her. Like a very black jacket.

simoncarr@sketch.sc

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