OLYMPICS supremo Sebastian Coe insisted yesterday the North-East would not lose out because of the 2012 games – but admitted to a “shift in investment” away from culture and grass-roots sport.
On a visit to the region, he said this loss of cash would be outweighed “by a distance” by tourism generated by the London games.
Cash for Sport England North-East in 2007-08 is already £4.4m less than it was last year, while arts chiefs in the region are waiting to hear how the £63m national cuts to Arts Council funding will affect them.
But Lord Coe, chairman of the London 2012 Organising Committee, said opportunities for the North-East to benefit from the £9.33bn games would offset these cuts.
Culture bosses in the region were last night putting on a brave face, talking only of the “difficulties” cuts would create. They are waiting for a Government spending review due in October. But politicians called for a cap on lottery money being diverted to the Olympics – currently £2.2bn – so the “modest” amounts given to arts in the North-East were not put at risk.
Lord Coe visited Gateshead International Stadium, where children were taking part in the Tyne and Wear Festival of Sport, before going to the site of a 50-metre swimming pool being built in Sunderland.
He said: “In the five years between now and 2012, there are any number of opportunities that will present themselves that will, by a distance, outweigh the current shift in investment. If there is displacement beyond 2009, the benefits will outweigh that.
“When I have spoken to the cultural community, they have recognised that this is a huge opportunity. There will be thousands of people coming to the games who will want to see different parts of the country.
“They will want to see all the exciting things happening on the Quayside in Newcastle. We want to encourage a whole generation of young people to take up sport.”
A spokeswoman for Arts Council North-East said: “We are confident that the Government recognises the importance of
culture and this will be reflected in the next comprehensive spending review.
“I would say that it does cause difficulties to remove funding from the arts, especially for smaller organisations, but the Olympics provide a massive opportunity for England.”
Tyne & Wear Museums director Alec Coles said: “I think everyone working in the cultural sector should rise to the challenge posed by the Olympics. It’s a once in a lifetime thing. The cuts in funding have thrown out a challenge to the cultural sector, which we will rise to.”
Gateshead Council’s head of culture David Bunce said: “It is impossible to tell if there will be a shortfall in funding for the North-East, let alone its effect. We might have a clearer idea once the Government’s comprehensive spending review has been published.”
North-East Liberal Democrat Euro-MP Fiona Hall said: “Everyone wants the Olympics to be a success, including people in the North-East, but it isn’t fair to keep raiding the lottery fund so that North-East arts and cultural events, which receive relatively modest funding anyway, are put at risk. …
“The arts have been at the centre of regeneration in the North-East and we don’t want to see that kind of investment jeopardised in the future.”
Double Olympic champion from Britain’s golden era in middle distance running
DOUBLE Olympic 1,500m champion Sebastian Coe remains one of the greatest athletes Britain has ever produced, setting 12 world records during his career.
When he broke the world record for the 1,000m in 1980, his time of 2:13.40, which he bettered in 1981 with 2:12.18, stood for the next 18 years.
At the Moscow Olympics in 1980, he won gold in the 1,500m and silver in the 800m, both of which he repeated in Los Angeles in 1984.
His track rivalry with Steve Ovett and Steve Cram still represents one of the golden eras of competitive athletics.
He retired in 1990, then in 1992 became Conservative MP for Falmouth and Camborne. He lost his seat in the 1997 general election but returned to politics for a short time as Conservative leader William Hague’s ‘chief of staff’.
In 2002, he was elevated to a Peerage as Lord Coe of Ranmore. He retains close links with his sport through a variety of national and international bodies and was appointed as a council member of the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF). He was appointed chairman of the London 2012 bid and then chairman of the London organising committee of the Olympic Games.
He was appointed a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire in the 2006 New Year’s Honours List, for services to sport.