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Last Updated: Thursday, 15 May, 2003, 15:43 GMT 16:43 UK
The Olympics' political hurdles

By Nick Assinder
BBC News Online political correspondent

There may be a political price for the Olympics
Hang out the bunting - Tony Blair is bidding to bring the Olympics to London.

In almost any other country in the world that would be universally greeted with cheers, delight and an outpouring of enthusiasm.

In the UK, the most likely reaction is "don't mention the Dome."

The history of that disaster is just too fresh in people's minds, let alone their wallets, not to cast a bit of a shadow over this ambitious project.

That, too, was supposed to put London on the international map.

It would inspire, excite and unite the entire country as it strode, confidently and proudly into the new millennium. We knew because Peter Mandelson and Tony Blair told us so.

So, we will draw a gigantic veil over that catastrophe.

But then there was Wembley......

Extra tourists

Still this will be different. And the government is confident it will succeed in winning the bid and can put on a spectacle to rival Sydney's Kylie games.

Council tax payers in London will only have to shell out 20 each towards the cost, which will be financed from a lottery. And there will be no further demands or bailing out!

The transport infrastructure will be revolutionised to cope with the massive influx of extra tourists which London is crying out for.

And a new Olympic village will be built somewhere near the decaying old dog track in east London which will be the heart of the event.

The point of all this negativity is to illustrate just the risks the prime minister is taking over this project.

Boost

Barring a miracle, of course, he will not be in his present job in 2012, so what has he got to worry about?

Well, it is clear he hopes this project will succeed where others have failed and bring a real feelgood factor to the entire country.

These sorts of events can have the effect of making people feel so good they go out and vote for the government, apparently.

So, if Britain beats every other country to the prize when the decision is announced in 2005, it will give the prime minister a major boost around the time of the next general election.

The down side, however, is pretty worrying.

If costs escalate, if people refuse to believe Britain and its crumbling transport system cannot meet the challenge - and then Paris gets it - it could backfire.

In any case, who have we got to match Kylie? Cilla Black perhaps.





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