By Duncan Mackay
British Sports Internet Writer of the Year

May 13 - London Mayor Boris Johnson and former Olympics Minister Tessa Jowell tonight warned new Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt (pictured) that it would be a mistake to cut the £9.3 billion ($13.5 billion) budget for the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics.

Hunt, whose Department will oversee the preparations for the Olympics, had earlier warned that money for the Games "is not protected" as Britain's new Government seeks to find £57 billion ($83 billion) a year worth of savings from the public purse.

But Johnson, who is a member of Hunt's Conservative Party, claimed that the budget for London 2012 should remain untouched.

A statement issued on Johnson's behalf said: "Significant savings have been found since Boris Johnson became Mayor and all involved are continuing to seek further savings and ensure the best value for money possible for taxpayers.

"The Mayor agrees that as a result of all this hard work to control cost, it should be possible to realise some savings now, but it would be a mistake to take too much money out of the Olympic budget, only to be forced to put more back in closer to the Games.

"The Mayor is also completely committed to the commitments made to the regeneration legacy in east London and believes it would be a false economy to short-change the planned investment in this."

Hunt has claimed that the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) might need to find as much as £66 million ($96 million) in savings.

Jowell, who had overseen the London 2012 project from its inception in 2002 until she lost her post following Labour's defeat in the General Election last week, also warned Hunt he would be making a mistake if he made cuts.

She said: "The Tories should be very careful about destabilising the Olympic budget.

"The Olympic budget has a substantial contingency, which has enabled the project so far to be delivered on budget and on time.

"Reducing the available contingency could well lead to short term savings, but greater costs in the long term."

Jowell was supported by Gerry Sutcliffe, the former Sports Minister.

He said: "We had maintained that the Olympic budget should be ring-fenced.

"There was also a need to find funding for athletes.

"I think it would be very strange to cast doubt on the Olympic budget which could affect athletes and performance."

London 2012, though, will be encouraged by Hunt's promise that the Olympics and Paralympics remain the DCMS's main priority.

He said: "The 2012 Olympics are the most important thing we will be doing as a department, and I think possibly a seminal moment in this new Government after all the doom and gloom we are facing on the economic front."

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