Coe: 'Business as usual' for games under Cameron

LONDON (AP) — Preparations for the 2012 London Olympics will move ahead in a "politically seamless way" under Britain's new coalition government, organizing committee leader Sebastian Coe said Wednesday.

Coe said the Olympic project will not be affected by the general election that led to Tuesday's resignation of Labor Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who was replaced by Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron in a coalition with the Liberal Democrats.

"For us, this is business as usual," Coe said on a day when Eurostar rail service was confirmed as the games' 30th domestic sponsor.

The Olympics have enjoyed all-party support since London was awarded the games in 2005, and the project never became a political issue during the campaign, Coe said. Despite the severe economic pressures facing Britain, the Olympics' construction and infrastructure budget of $13.8 billion will remain untouched under the new administration, he said.

That includes the cost of reviving a run-down area of east London into an Olympic Park with an 80,000-seat main stadium and other new facilities.

"We have worked in a coalition for the last five years and we will continue in exactly that way right the way up to the games," said Coe, a former Conservative member of Parliament. "It's really important that you maintain continuity. I think the politically seamless way we have operated will maintain that continuity.

"This is a project that will move on in the same way it was 24 hours ago."

There will be one visible change, however: Labour's Tessa Jowell is out as Olympics Minister and was replaced by Conservative lawmaker Jeremy Hunt.

The 43-year-old Hunt becomes Secretary of State for the newly created Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport department and a member of Cameron's Cabinet.

"The Olympics is our No. 1 priority and what we need to do is to grasp the opportunity," he said.

Jowell was a key figure in London's winning bid for the Olympics and remained at the heart of the project as government minister under Labor Prime Ministers Tony Blair and Brown. Hugh Robertson, who served as the Conservatives' "shadow" minister for sports and the Olympics, is expected to be named the new sports minister.

Jowell served on the Olympic Board that oversees and monitors the 2012 project. She sat on the board alongside Coe, Conservative London Mayor Boris Johnson and British Olympic Association chairman Colin Moynihan.

"I pay a great deal of gratitude to Tessa Jowell for the work she did as the Olympic Minister, not only during the delivery process but during the bidding process as well," Coe said. "We need to be moving ahead in exactly the same way.

"We've worked with a multi-shaped Olympic board. We have worked with all political parties and we have let them know at every stage what we are up to."

Coe said he had no role to play in the appointment of the new Olympics minister.

"We will work with whoever takes that responsibility and we will work seamlessly," he said.

Coe spoke as Eurostar — the high-speed rail service connecting London with Paris and Brussels — was unveiled as a third-tier sponsor in a deal worth an estimated $14.8 million. Despite the economic downturn, London has raised more than $921 million in revenues from its domestic sponsorship program.

As the "official international rail service provider,'" Eurostar will carry athletes, officials, staff and fans to and from London's St. Pancras International station. Eurostar officials said they expect to transport more than 1 million passengers during the games.

Eurostar also becomes a partner of the French and Belgian national Olympic committees. Under those deals, the French and Belgian teams will travel to and from the Olympics with Eurostar.


Associated Press Writer Chris Davie contributed to this report.