News blackout on Olympian success story
Posted on 28 February 2010 | 2:02pm
With the Tories doing enough damage on their own, and the polls continuing to narrow as they happily ignore all the free advice I give them here, I thought I’d do a rare blog free of Tory bashing.
Instead a return to two of my favourite themes – the UK media’s refusal to accept that good news can be news at all, and the great success story I have always believed London 2012 will be.
Consider this – if a report by the National Audit Office had said last week that preparations for the London Olympics were behind schedule and costing way more than planned, do you think you might have heard about it?
So why, when the NAO issued a report saying the preparations were on schedule and on budget, is this deemed worthy of no coverage whatsoever?
Well, I say none with apologies to the FT editor who decided it was worth one paragraph highlighting what the report said about future challenges of co-ordination, and the BBC London team who gave it what it called a ‘wipe’ – one sentence.
The media are constantly in hand-wringing mode as to why they are in such a mess. The belief that ‘good news is no news’ is one of the reasons.
It comes to something when I can write this a few days after the event and virtually claim what papers are fond of calling a ‘world exclusive’ in setting out some of the report’s findings.
We can start with the opening line of the NAO’s ignored press release.
‘Venues and infrastructure for 2012 are on track to be delivered on time for the Games and the cost is currently forecast to be within budget, according to a progress report to Parliament by the National Audit Office’.
It is worth pointing out that this report comes not from government or London 2012 but Parliament’s independent watchdog. To get this sort of endorsement is the holy grail for a project like this.
Now think back to the huge media cynicism, first that we would never beat Paris for the Games and, when we won, that we couldn’t deliver a project on this scale.
An Olympic Games obviously presents the ultimate fixed deadline. Worth remembering too that the completion dates are not summer 2012 but in the most part summer 2011 so our athletes can get a chance to use the facilities in advance and the organisers can hold test events – so on time means in reality a year early.
As the Winter Olympics close this weekend, there are now fewer than 1000 days to go. When I was asked on the radio the other day for my favourite view in London, I said currently it was the sight of the Olympic stadium rising up.
The Games present the biggest construction project in Europe – at a cost of £8bn with 10,000 people working at Stratford and thousands more in companies up and down the country. It represents a remarkable logistical challenge to manage multiple contractors on one very constrained site in East London. It is changing the nature of the construction industry by setting new standards for sustainability which are attracting global interest. And it is being done with an exemplary health and safety record.
I am an unashamed cheerleader for a Games whose legacy will not just be a regenerated East London and a great sports legacy but UK plc winning billions of pounds of contracts abroad on the back of this success at home.
It is also turning into a proud symbol of the best of Britain – multiculturalism, innovation, optimism, volunteering.
If only we had a media that could see it this would be an even better country than it already is.
Ps. Oh ok, just a bit of Tory-bashing. Well not bashing so much as strategic reflection. It comes to you in the form of the email I sent to Kate Silverton’s Five Live programme when she asked for questions for David Cameron.
I asked ‘does he recall a conversation we had at Matthew Freud’s party two years ago? He was well ahead in the polls. I said unless he came up with a thought through policy programme which showed real change in his party his lead was unsustainable even if Labour became less popular. He said he was far from complacent but he believed he was doing what we did under TB – presenting well, building media support and keeping powder dry. I pointed out TB led a fundamental overhaul of the party – strategy, policy, constitution. He needed a similar scale of change…. He hasn’t done it and despite a benign environment he is now paying a political price.’
*** Buy The Blair Years online and raise money for Labour (a political price worth paying) http://www.alastaircampbell.org/bookshop.php.