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Albert Park's Column.

Like or loathe what's inside it, there can be no doubt that the new mima (Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art) building is probably the most striking addition to the Teesside skyline for many years.

A lot of the pounds 14.2m it cost came from "regeneration funds".

And, in today's world, it has to.

Today, there are precious few benefactors like the legendary Scots-born US steel maker Andrew Carnegie, who used his millions to fund libraries across the world - including Middlesbrough's, where it now stands as a civic partner to mima. So if we are hoping for other mima's, we may have to wait a lot longer in future.

Why? Well it seems that - as with every grand project this country gets involved with - the 2012 Olympics are running well awry. The latest figures hint at costs of up to pounds 9bn. And that's with five years to go on the cash taximeter. Then there's the VAT issue. Seems no one in authority spotted that VAT might be payable for building all the stadiums. Now forgive me for appearing to be a smarty-pants, but surely VAT is one of the first questions you ask any builder looking to work on your house.

We are, as ever, repeating past mistakes. Everything of this size - Concorde, the nuclear power programme, the Channel Tunnel and, of course, the Greenwich Dome - came in with sky-high extra costs. Will this be any different? And, if not, where will these extra pounds for the Olympic dream be found? Surprise, surprise, it looks as if mainstream regeneration funds for areas like the North-east could well be one of the targets.

So, unless things correct themselves soon, areas like Teesside, and other parts of the UK that have had to face hard times while the rest of the UK luxuriated in the 1990's boom, will still be facing an uphill battle to get their fair share or regeneration cash.

And the losers? Well, it could be those potential stars of 2012 now coming out of school, and looking for the training facilities that can sustain and nurture their talent. For those people - like 10-year-old Billingham swimmer, Emily Whybonne, featured in a recent edition of the Gazette - deserve the best. But will they get it? We are going for gold all right - but, tragically, the medals might only come if we move our priorities away from concrete and put that cash into coaching.

- Park Bencher
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Copyright 2007 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Column Albert Park
Publication:Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)
Article Type:Column
Date:Mar 7, 2007
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