Computerised image of revamped Hampden Park
Glasgow is to host the 2014 Commonwealth Games. These sporting events come at a price and the price of this one is presently more than the cost of the Scottish Parliament. Can you believe anything could ever be more than the cost of our Parliament?
Eleven days of world-class competition will be held in July 2014 and according to Lord Smith, chairman of the Games organising committee, there will be huge opportunities for Scotland as a whole to benefit. I don't see the Games benefitting me in the slightest but if it does help others I'm happy to go with the flow.
What I'm not happy about is the budgeting system for large events such as this. Some anonymous grey suit set the budget for £373 million and that was accepted by all parties concerned. Now the Games partners - the Scottish government, Glasgow City Council and the organising committee - have revealed that the cost has risen by £81 million, over 20%. What is it with public accountants that they have an inherent ability to underestimate every time? The extra money is the cost of delivering the broadcast signal and the failure to sell the domestic rights to the BBC. I don't understand what that means but I'm sure someone will explain.
Not only is it now over budget but the Auditor General has reported some venues are already showing signs of slippage. For example the Cathkin Braes Cycling Course, which will stage mountain biking events, was, according to the original bid document, scheduled for completion by April 2009 but will now only be completed in March 2012.
The Deputy Auditor General, Caroline Gardner said, "In the current economic climate public sector finances are already under pressure and it is essential that the organisers keep costs under control. They need to continue to monitor and review the budget assumptions regularly."
Alex Salmond defended the overspend on FMQs today and stated the Games will cost "only a twentieth of the London Olympics." Maybe, but we need to control the expenditure of this event.
With many new and refurbished venues behind schedule and a budget growing by the day the Games could well be seen in the same light as many view the Edinburgh tram project - a white elephant and a big one. The First Minister may see the Games as a legacy but they will only be seen as such if there are no financial or timing disasters.