Page last updated at 13:29 GMT, Tuesday, 7 October 2008 14:29 UK

2012 to be 'cosier' than Beijing

Boris Johnson
Boris Johnson has said London will be turned into a "party city"

Boris Johnson has said the 2012 Olympic Games will be "cosier" and have more "intimacy" than those in Beijing.

Updating MPs on progress, the London mayor pledged to deliver a games "every bit as good as Beijing" without spending "colossal" sums of money.

He vowed the event would not go over its 9.3bn budget even though the credit crunch had hit planning.

He also warned that security would be a national issue even though the games are being staged largely in London.

He told the Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee: "If you think that during the G8 (in July 2005) 12,000 police were moved to Scotland and terrorists struck in London.

"The security threat is not just for London, the security threat can be anywhere during the Games.

"My opinion is that the security architecture of the Olympics has been held up for too long. I now think that we are making much faster progress and there will be quite substantial protection around the main venues."

'Fantastic games'

He said that more detail about that would come, but predicted "it will not be like China", whose security levels, he said, "many people found oppressive".

Mr Johnson was pressed on whether costs would escalate as a result of the credit crunch. He said "increasingly difficult market circumstances" had forced changes in planning but added: "I am satisfied that we are going to be able to deliver a fantastic Olympic games, while not going over the 9.3bn budget."

He said London would avoid the "great soulless piazzas" he had seen in Beijing and provide a "more friendly event for the spectators".

You can count on me, as one who has attended many international summits and eaten in many a marquee, that I see absolutely no reason why there should not be some economies there
Boris Johnson

Among the ideas being explored to give a better "spectator experience" than Beijing, were hand-held electronic devices being handed out to spectators, so that they could view instant replays and find out what was happening elsewhere.

An "RSVP" scheme for corporate guests - so that they could return unused tickets would help avoid some of the empty seats seen at venues in Beijing and there would be free tickets for school children, said the London mayor.

And he vowed that there would be "a party atmosphere in the centre of London for the duration of the games".

He said London would spend "half what the Chinese spent but we will deliver a games that is every bit as good".

Controlling costs

The biggest cost pressures were on the Olympic village, the stadium and the media centre, he told the MPs, but he was "determined to extract value" for "generations to come".

He would not be afraid to defy the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and move a venue "off site" in order to keep costs down.

Asked to describe how London would differ from Beijing, he said: "The London Olympics will have, what's the word I want?, an intimacy. The site will be smaller than the Beijing Park, it will be cosier, as estate agents would put it.

BBC Sports Editor Mihir Bose

"It will still be a vast site and there will be many spectacular things to see there, but there is no need, we think, to spend that amount of money."

He said he had cut the budget for London 2012's party at the Beijing Games by 1.4m which he said was "widely thought to be the best event in Beijing".

He also said he wanted to cut costs at the 386m media centre, He said the budget could not be slashed too far as it could lead to negative coverage from foreign media but the catering budget may need to be revised.

"You can count on me, as one who has attended many international summits and eaten in many a marquee, that I see absolutely no reason why there should not be some economies there," said Mr Johnson.

GB football team

Olympic medal-winning kayaker Tim Brabants was quizzed by the committee about whether performance-related cash bonuses should be introduced for British athletes.

"It's not going to drive me on more knowing I am going to get a bonus," he told the committee before producing his gold medal to show the MPs.

It's not going to drive me on more knowing I am going to get a bonus
Tim Brabants
Olympic gold medallist

"This is bonus enough for me. This is what we work for," he added.

Lord Moynihan, chairman of the British Olympic Association, said the issue of bonuses was being examined but the views of athletes would be taken into account.

He also repeated his commitment to entering men and women's Great Britain football teams in the 2012 games, although he stressed he wanted to address the concerns of the football associations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, who have opposed the plan.

"It is important that we listen, it is important that we give all the FAs the confidence that their status in international football will not be detrimentally affected," he told the committee.

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