David Higgins, the former chief executive of the Olympic Delivery Authority, is to be honoured with a knighthood for his work overseeing the construction of the venues for the 2012 Olympic Park.
Now let me be pleasant about this first. Higgins is undoubtedly one of the best-known and best-respected figures in the building industry, noted for his involvement in the delivery of high-profile public sector funded infrastructure and development projects.
Since moving to English Partnerships from Australia’s Lend Lease he’s built a reputation as the go-to man for government when key projects appear to be mired in spiralling costs and delivery problems.
It was no surprise to see him pick up the difficult job of managing Network Rail’s vast array of projects recently and he will bring fresh impetus and a wealth of experience to this role.
But am I alone in thinking the recognition of Higgins for his work in keeping the Olympic build on-time and on-budget is a little premature?
Surely the time to start handing out baubles for a successful Games and, more importantly, the successful regeneration of Stratford and east London is a way off – it doesn’t actually take place until next summer for starters.
And I still can’t get to grips with how building the project within a massively inflated £9.3bn budget – remember the initial budget was £2.4bn – is seen as a great success. I suspect even I could have got it built on time with that sort of warchest to play with.
For some reason the whole thing brings to mind Heather Mills, formerly Mills-McCartney, for me. These days whenever I hear a Beatles tune I find my enjoyment sullied a little bit by the awareness that Mills has benefited from it (financially in this case) despite her somewhat peripheral involvement in the bands’ recordings.
I will feel a lot less like this about Olympics-related honours if they are handed out after the Games when there has been more time to digest whether it was really value for money, whether it has had a positive impact on one of the poorest areas in the UK, and who actually was responsible for delivering the project.