17 Jul, 2009

Cultural Olympiad due for overhaul

Posted by: admin In: Guardian

A who’s who of prominent figures from the arts world will be recruited to overhaul the Cultural Olympiad due to accompany the 2012 games in London, after a lottery boost of almost £16m for the project.

The attempt to link an ambitious programme of cultural events to the games was hailed by Lord Coe, the chairman of the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games (Locog), as an attempt to revive the spirit of the ancient Olympics. But it has faced criticism from some senior figures within the arts world for lacking focus and wasting money.

Tony Hall, chief executive of the Royal Opera House, was today confirmed as the chair of a new Cultural Olympiad board convened by Locog and the government in an attempt to revitalise the project. He said he had recruited a series of senior figures who would “want to get things done” and allow the Cultural Olympiad to, in effect, become a coalition of the biggest arts institutions in the UK.

The board will comprise Arts Council chief executive Alan Davey, Royal Shakespeare Company director Vicky Heywood, Barbican managing director Sir Nicholas Kenyon, BBC director general Mark Thompson, Tate director Sir Nicholas Serota, the mayor’s adviser on arts and culture Munira Mirza, and Jude Kelly, the Southbank Centre artistic director who has been overseeing the project to date.

Projects which have already been announced include an international Shakespeare festival, a UK-wide film project for young people and World River, a music festival to take place in London.Hall said the £16m in Lottery money would achieve that but that it was more important to forge a spirit of co-operation between all in the arts world and the Olympic organisers. Hall said he would review all the current plans in the autumn to ensure there was “clear leadership” and focus energies on the months of 2012 leading up to the games rather spreading events throughout the next three years.

“I have always believed that the Olympic and Paralympic games presents a fantastic opportunity for the arts in this country,” said Hall, who will report to the main Olympic board. “We have the ability to introduce a whole new generation to arts and culture and show the world what a creative and inspirational country this is.”

Locog, which said it always intend to pass on responsibility for the cultural olympiad to a dedicated board, will retain responsibility for the opening and closing ceremonies of the games.

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