IN 1997 the Conservatives handed the poisoned baton of the Millennium Dome to Labour. Will Labour return the favour at the next election by leaving the Conservatives to run the last lap of the Olympic Games relay? Almost two years after London was chosen for 2012, yesterday's statement by Tessa Jowell, the Culture and Sports minister, was hardly reassuring about the progress that has so far been made. Everyone expects the original estimates for holding an Olympics to increase. But by a factor of four?

In principle the Olympics authorities do not care greatly how much their Games are going to cost the host city; they are more interested in the degree of commitment and the provision of the necessary facilities than in value-for-money. Even so, they must look with some alarm at the escalating costs revealed yesterday by Tessa Jowell because they suggest that London and the UK government have not yet really got things under control, particularly since the source of all the extra money is not clear.

There is always a problem with Olympic Games costs of separating those for the event itself and those for work designed to take long-term advantage of all the infrastructural projects involved. In the budget presented yesterday the cost of “regeneration and infrastructure” is 1.7 billion pounds, almost as much as the original overall cost of 2.1 billion. The Olympics, we are told, will transform parts of east London and such things have been achieved before. Just look at Barcelona.