Minister defends €96m Games ceremonies

Britain's Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt admitted that he is “sticking his neck out” in doubling the budget for London 2012’s opening and closing ceremonies to more than £80m (€96m).

Britain's Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt admitted that he is “sticking his neck out” in doubling the budget for London 2012’s opening and closing ceremonies to more than £80m (€96m).

He sees it as “an extraordinary business opportunity” in a time of biting austerity and when students, tourists and businesses are deciding where they want to go or invest this year.

An increase of £41m (€48.5m) above the £40m (€48m) already budgeted for the opening and closing nights’ shows was announced last month.

Mr Hunt told the Culture, Media and Sport committee: “I am sticking my neck out in a big way for this opening ceremony.

“We are as a Government saying that we are not going with the conventional wisdom that at times of austerity you should reign back on absolutely everything because we think this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

“You and millions of other people will have a very strong view about whether that is a good investment on July 28 (the day after the opening ceremony).”

Former sports minister Gerry Sutcliffe noted that world marathon record holder Paula Radcliffe has branded the extra spend on the ceremony as “frivolous”, given the state of the economic situation. It would have been better spent on legacy, she has argued.

Mr Hunt said: “The point I would make is this, and I would make the same point to Paula Radcliffe, it (London 2012) is about the whole package. It is not just about ceremonies. It is not just about sport. It is about how competently we put on the biggest sporting event on the planet. It is about the Cultural Olympiad, the torch relay and the whole thing.”

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