By Ray Fleming
IN 1997 New Labour inherited the Millennium Dome project from the Conservatives and paid a hefty price in loss of prestige for their inability to make a cost–effective success of it. The latest opinion polls are suggesting that the Conservatives may win the next election, but if they do they will be obliged at the same time to take possession of an even bigger problem project than the Dome, the 2012 Olympics. Its basic sporting facilities and infrastructure will surely be ready on time but worries about long–term costs are already surfacing. The original price tag of 2.375 billion pounds, which helped London to get the Games, has already increased to almost half as much again while there are still many estimates to be made about costs not included in that figure, such as the provision of a much higher level of security than was first envisaged. There is also uncertainty and some confusion over how the costs of post–Olympics projects, such as the re–development of the Olympic site for other uses, should be costed and paid for. An overall figure of 8 billion pounds is being predicted despite the assurances given this week by the responsible minister, Tessa Jowell, that she is applying “absolute rigour” to government spending. Ken Livingstone, the Mayor of London, says confidently that he believes London will make a profit out of the Olympics but some creative accounting may be necessary to achieve that result.

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