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  • Government’s London 2012 Olympic report to stay secret

    Posted on March 27th, 2009 admin No comments

    No gold medals for disclosure

    No gold medals for disclosure

    A document prepared for Government ministers about the potential pros and cons or winning an Olympic bid looks set to stay secret until at least after the London 2012 Olympics.


    The report to ministers was considered before the Government officially threw its hat into the Olympic rings to bid for the 2012 games.

    Although its contents will remain secret the Information Commissioner’s decision notice [FS50182402] suggests it offers a frank appraisal of the possible downsides of winning the race to host an Olympic Games.

    The request for the report was turned down initially by the Department for Culture Media and Sport (DCMS) who relied upon S.35 (formulation and development of government policy). The decision was appealed to the Information Commissioner, where Deputy Commissioner Graham Smith upheld the refusal saying the exemption was engaged and the public interest test was not in favour of disclosure.

    The 24 page report was prepared in August 2002 and the Government formally announced its decision to bid for the Games in May 2003.

    Accepting the material within the report, which was prepared for then Minister for Sport Richard Caborn,  was covered by S.35 the Commissioner went on to examine the public interest test.

    At first glance it might appear that a decision taken by Government almost six years ago might struggle to maintain the exemption under the public interest test. However, a number of arguments were put forward by the DCMS to keep the report secret.

    The DCMS argued that the issues in the report remain live and the development of the Games strategy is ongoing; the release of the report would re-open a long settled debate; it would be detrimental to the Departments relationship with sports bodies as well as cause internal relationship difficulties between officials and ministers.

    On the topic of its relationship with sports bodies the report is said to “contain frank advice about sporting bodies and officials drafted in a forthright tone which whilst appropriate for the document’s purpose would not have been appropriate if it was intended to be made public”.

    The DCMS also says the age of the report is in favour of non-disclosure as the public interest in such an old document is reduced.

    Coming to his conclusion the Commissioner states the arguments on both sides of the public interest argument are strong but are tipped slightly in favour of maintaining the exemption.

    But he adds: “There would, in the Commissioner’s view, be a much stronger case for disclosure after the Games have been held and if then there was a debate or a review of the whole issue of hosting the 2012 Games.”

    Editor’s note: This is a somewhat strange decision in that when reading the notice it would appear the Commissioner sides with disclosure when looking at the public interest test. Yet in his final paragraph he rules to keep the report secret, without in my opinion adequately explaining his rationale for the decision. Because of this it is hard to see which elements of the DCMS’s arguments he believes are strong and which are weak. Conspiracy theorists might think the Commissioner’s decision to cave in to the DCMS’s weak pleadings might not be unrelated to decision notice [FS50098980]. In that recent case the DCMS again used S.35 but this was rejected by the Commissioner and has now been appealed to the Tribunal by the Government Department. Perhaps one live battle over S.35 with a Government department is enough. You might think that, I couldn’t possibly say.

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