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New ODA head John Armitt vows to speed up decisions

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BULLISH JOHN Armitt this week made clear his intentions to crack the whip and speed up decision making at the Olympic Delivery Authority when he takes on the role of chairman in September.

'Every day we lose now is a very important day we lose at the end of the project. So our decisions now are critical, ' he said, hinting at the slow delivery to date that has seen deadlines missed for the two key venues - the main stadium and the aquatics centre.

'The ODA's number one priority is delivery - getting it finished on time. So for me that is the number one priority and that is something I have to bear in mind at all times. Early and quick decisions are key, ' he said.

Armitt dismissed suggestions that political interference was responsible for the slow progress, an allegation made in the US media by departing chairman Jack Lemley last year (NCE 9 November 2006).

'We shouldn't be at all surprised that politicians are interested in what's going on.

Fundamentally, a lot of it is being paid for from the public purse. It is just part of the game, ' he said.

'We have to be in a position as soon as possible where they trust us and don't have to constantly review what we're doing.' The Olympic stadium is one venue where concerns have been raised over cost overruns and delays.

ODA chief executive David Higgins last week conceded that he has drawn up a 'plan B' should it prove impossible to build the Olympic Stadium with its 55,000 temporary seats as planned.

Stadium contractor Sir Robert McAlpine is locked in talks with the ODA on how to deliver the stadium near to its budgeted cost of £232M (NCE 10 May).

Engineers have warned that the true cost could be anything from £350M to £630M.

'In any project like this you always have a plan B. But we don't disclose plan Bs and we are not contemplating using it at this stage, ' he said.

'An enormous amount of design work has gone in to give us price certainty, ' he said, adding that an announcement is likely to be made in 'the next few weeks'. Detailed designs were due to be unveiled in March.

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