Sat, Jun 14, 2008 - Page 18 News List

New London mayor scales down Beijing hospitality venture


London's new mayor has scaled down plans for a hospitality venue at the Beijing Olympics that will promote the hosts of the 2012 Games — including cutting 18 gourmet chefs and forcing everyone to fly economy.

London Mayor Boris Johnson, who beat Ken Livingstone in an election last month, chaired his first meeting of the Olympic Board on Thursday and emphasized his desire for “tight financial management” of the London Games, his office said in a statement.

That includes cutting £1.2 million (US$2.3 million) from the reported £4.6 million cost of London House — a venture intended to promote the British capital during the Beijing Games, which runs from Aug. 8 to Aug. 24.

“The Olympic Games are important to London, as is our presence during the Beijing Games, but I want to ensure every aspect is kept under tight financial control,” Johnson said.

“There were some pretty unrealistic things planned, which would have cost a lot of taxpayer money, but which would have had marginal value to Londoners,” he said.

Johnson said he had reduced the number of delegates from City Hall traveling to Beijing to 10 and downgraded their accommodation.

They will also all fly economy, including Johnson.

Part of the budget for London House was cut by scrapping plans for 18 chefs trained by celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay to fly over to cater for visitors and guests. Ramsay himself was not scheduled to attend.

Johnson said he had also considered scrapping London House altogether.

“We looked at whether it would be viable to abandon plans for London House, but found that many of the costs have been committed already,” Johnson said. “We will do what we can to make it as cost effective as possible in how it promotes London, but will look at other cost savings where we can.”

Johnson will receive the Olympic flag on behalf of London officials during the closing ceremony of the Beijing Olympic Games.

The Olympic board meets monthly and is made up of Johnson, British Olympics minister Tessa Jowell, British Olympic Association chairman Colin Moynihan and London 2012 organizing committee chairman Sebastian Coe.

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