Olympics-London 2012 under budget despite high running costs

LONDON, Oct 23 (Reuters) - Recognised as one of the best Olympics ever, London 2012 came with a hefty price tag for the British taxpayer despite government figures on Tuesday showing a 377 million pounds saving on the budget for the sporting spectacle.

The final quarterly economic report published by the UK government’s Department for Culture Media and Sport (DCMS) said the overall cost of delivering the Games was 8.92 billion pounds ($14.3 billion), lower than the 9.3 billion pounds set aside.

The London 2012 Organising Committee’s (LOCOG) own 2.2 billion pounds operational budget for the day-to-day running of the Games came almost entirely from sponsorship, ticket sales, merchandise and from the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

However, the actual “Games-time” cost ran close to three billion pounds when adding on 514 million pounds for venue security and 137 million pounds for “operational provisions” as well as extra money for more lavish ceremonies, all of which came from the public purse.

A DCMS spokesman said the government had always been committed to providing LOCOG funds for venue security, initially estimated at 282 million pounds.

The final figure for Games-time security does not take into account any savings resulting from the security firm G4S’s failure to deliver its Olympic contract in full.

Despite steep rises in venue security costs as the Games approached, the figures released on Tuesday showed 480 million pounds in unused contingency from the public funding package.

While the operational costs escalated, the report said the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA), the government-funded body responsible for building the venues and infrastructure, completed the project for 6.71 billion pounds, one billion pounds less than initially forecast.

The ODA budget was reduced by 47 million pounds between May and September, despite a 36 million pounds increase in completing the athletes’ village, much of the savings coming from reduced transport costs.

“We are pleased to report even more savings made through careful stewardship of public money,” ODA chief executive Dennis Hone said in a statement.

“We are now entering the final phase of the ODA’s work, transforming the Olympic Village into thousands of new homes and building a community that will become established, grow and mature in the decades ahead - a London 2012 legacy for generations to come.”

The final budget report came on the day LOCOG began handing back parts of the Olympic Park to the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC), who will transform the sprawling east London site into the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.

“We have now begun the first chapter of the lasting legacy we promised when we bid for the Games,” LOCOG chairman Sebastian Coe said in a statement.

The 292 million pounds project will remove temporary venues, complete a retro-fit of the Olympic Village to create a new London community with 2,800 homes and install new roads and pathways.

A phased re-opening of the Olympic Park is expected to begin in July 2013. ($1 = 0.6237 British pounds) (Editing by Mark Meadows)