January 24 - The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Jeremy Hunt (pictured), today told a House of Commons Select Committee that there "will never in history be an opportunity" like the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games to showcase Britain to the world.
He made the comments under scrutiny from the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee of the decision to double the original £41 million ($64 million/€48 million) budget for the Ceremonies of the Games on July 27.
The budget has been criticised by some observers, including by Paula Radcliffe, who has said it is "frivolous".
"There will never be an opportunity like this in our history," Hunt argued.
"It isn't just about the Ceremonies, it's about how competently we put on the biggest sporting event on the planet.
"It was a decision we looked at very hard.
"It's a lot of money.
"It's less than Canada spent on its Opening Ceremony [at the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics] and more than the Russians will spend [on the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Opening Ceremony].
"I accept you get a lot of flak with a decision like that.
"The Opening Ceremony will be seen by four billion people.
"I see it as a great business opportunity – businesses are choosing where to invest, students where to study...if you get the Olympic Opening Ceremony right you strengthen your national brand.
"This is a once in a lifetime opportunity."
Hunt also asked members of the Select Committee and the public to judge the decision after they had witnessed the Ceremony itself.
Also facing questions was Sport and Olympics Minister Hugh Robertson (pictured), who was quizzed over the legacy of the Games and in particular, the future of the Olympic Stadium and Media Centre, both of which have yet to be decided.
The Olympic Stadium in particular has been the subject of a fierce battle, with West Ham last year beating Tottenham Hotspur to win the right to move into the venue after the Games.
The Olympic Park Legacy Company (OPLC) subsequently withdrew from negotiations with the club amid a legal challenge from Spurs, and a new tender process is currently under way to find a tenant.
The OPLC also have a shortlist of three bidders for the Media Centre, and intend to announce an anchor tenant before the start of the Olympics.
"On Friday we celebrate six months to go and we have [the legacy secured for] six out of the eight venues," Robertson said.
"No host city has managed that in history before."
The Olympics Minister also said that he was hoping that during television coverage of the Games this summer, there would be a way for viewers to find details of local sports clubs.
For example, a viewer watching the Olympic judo tournament may wish to find a judo club near to them, and Robertson suggested that this could be done using the red button on television remotes or through another similar method, and he said that he would be pushing this as hard as possible in meetings over coverage of the Games.
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