Tom Degun: Perhaps it is time to give the Government and Hugh Robertson real credit for London 2012
Wednesday, 13 June 2012
That basically means it is the last time before London 2012 that the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) will release the figures showing exactly how the money has been spent on the Games so far, where savings have been made and where costs have overrun.
Seemingly to mark such an occasion, the briefing was moved from its usual location at the modest DCMS headquarters to the grandiose Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO, pictured) located just around the corner from the Houses of Parliament.
After a minor ordeal in getting through security, my colleagues and I then had our laptops and phones confiscated at reception before being allowed to proceed any further.
It was some time later that we were finally taken through the elegant corridors at the FCO and eventually into a giant room with a large square table that was probably more appropriate for a state dinner - which I'm sure it has hosted before.
Sat at the top end of the table were Minister for Sport and the Olympics Hugh Robertson (pictured below) and Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) chief executive Dennis Hone (pictured bottom, on right with Jeremy Hunt), looking slightly relaxed in such a formal setting.
It was soon clear why, as Robertson revealed that London 2012 was running £476 million ($741 million/€590 million) under budget.
"With only a matter of weeks to go before the Olympics, it is fantastic news that there is still £476 million [$741 million/€590 million] of contingency funds left," said Robertson, clearly proud of such a considerable achievement.
"At this stage, we look set to come in under £9 billion [$14 billion/€11 billion] and that is a truly remarkable achievement that I honestly don't think that any of us expected at the beginning of this project."
Despite the magnitude of such an achievement, which should not be understated, it was not unexpected given that we had been told at every single Quarterly Cconomic Review that huge savings were being made.
But it is still an impressive feat and one which Robertson himself deserves great credit for.
Since he was appointed to his post in May 2010, the 49-year-old Conservative MP for Faversham and Mid Kent has quietly gone about the business of fighting the sports corner at every turn.
A clear example was in the Coalition Government's first Comprehensive Spending Review in October 2010, when he managed to secure vital money from the National Lottery for sport to ensure that, for the short to mid-term at least, the future looks bright.
Unlike the majority of his colleagues in the Coalition Government, Robertson has also refused to blame the previous Labour Government when any problems emerge over London 2012 – even though it would present the easy way out.
During the briefing, he continually described himself "as an unashamed cheerleader of London 2012 from the outset" and has a very friendly relationship with Tessa Jowell, the former Culture Secretary and current Shadow Minister for the Olympics, who Robertson himself admits was vital in helping secure London the Games back in Singapore in 2005.
In tough times, Robertson has been the Government's transparent face of the Olympics and Paralympics, always ready to face tough questions from the media when any Olympic-sized challenge arises – a skill he undoubtedly mastered while serving as a Major in the British Army before his political career began.
His achievement is made all the more impressive given that his boss, the Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt, still faces a battle to keep his job after allegations surfaced in the Leveson Inquiry earlier this year over his supposed secret deals with Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation during its bid to take over BSkyB.
In a recent conversation with London 2012 chief executive Paul Deighton, the topic of the Government's role in delivering the Games came up.
"People seldom give the Government credit but they have been fantastic and they have been consistent in their support of the project as they have provided money and operational support throughout," he told me.
"Figures like Hugh Robertson deserve real recognition for that."
He certainly does, and although there is still the Games itself to be judged before we can start showering him with praise, it is perhaps time to give Robertson real credit for London 2012's phenomenal preparations.
Tom Degun is a reporter for insidethegames. To follow him on Twitter click here.