Olympics: London 2012 chief defends budget hike

12th December 2011, Comments 0 comments

London 2012 Olympics supremo Sebastian Coe has defended a controversial budget hike for the Games' opening and closing ceremonies, saying it will make for the "largest piece of television ever".

The British government last week agreed to more than double the budget for the ceremonies to 81 million pounds ($127 million), sparking criticism by Olympians such as world-record-holding marathon runner Paula Radcliffe.

"The government saw what we have created in the main ceremonies and wanted to invest more in this unique promotion of Britain to four billion people around the world," Coe told reporters in Beijing on Sunday.

Coe -- in the Chinese capital for an international meeting with the Paralympic movement -- said criticism by Radcliffe, who called for the extra cash to be spent on grassroots sports, was misguided.

"Paula is a great friend of mine but I think grassroots sports funding through the National Lottery and through government activity is higher than it has ever been," said Coe, the chairman of the London 2012 organising committee.

Around 20,000 performers are set to take part in the Olympics and Paralympics opening and closing ceremonies, which are expected to net billions in advertising revenue.

"With regards to perception of London and the UK and a tourism legacy you could say that they will be priceless," Martin Sorrell, head of advertising giant WPP, said earlier this month.

"Slumdog Millionaire" filmmaker Danny Boyle has the task of producing the main opening ceremony, although few other details about the shows have emerged.

Early rumours suggest former Beatle Paul McCartney and pop giants Take That will kick off proceedings.

Sports Minister Hugh Robertson last week also defended the budget hike, saying it was for "the benefit of the country".

"We hope it's an impression that people will say 'we want to come back here, do business and spend tourism money'," he added.

© 2011 AFP

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