LAGARDE’S ODD CHANGE OF HEART ON HER BUDGET

 
Elizabeth Fournier
A SWIFT turnaround for silver vixen Christine Lagarde, who ascended the abruptly vacant throne of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) earlier this month.

Back in March, as French finance minister, Lagarde unveiled a “historical” budget to bring France’s finances back into line. “Reducing the deficit is an economic imperative and a commitment to Europe,” she blared.

But what’s this? Less than four months have flown by and Nicolas Sarkozy’s old ally and finance minister no longer feels quite the same way about that fiscal plan.

Lagarde’s IMF wrapped up its review of the French budget books yesterday and found its new director’s old budget… insufficient. “Under staff’s current projections, achieving the deficit target of three percent of GDP by 2013 requires further measures,” it concluded.

Perhaps not what Lagarde meant in March when she declared, of the struggling Greeks: “It’s clear that we are all in this together.” As you say, Madame la directrice.

PLAYING WITH FIRE
IN case you hadn’t noticed, yesterday marked the official start of the one year countdown to the London 2012 Olympics.

After Prime Minister David Cameron declared the games a perfect opportunity for London to “show the world the fantastic success of our business”, Mayor of London Boris Johnson took to the stage at the countdown ceremony in Trafalgar Square with a rousing speech in which he called the Omega Olympic clock – which broke down the day after it was started – a “symbol of resilience to go with Nelson’s Column or the dome of St Paul’s Cathedral, rising above the smoke of the blitz”.

Among the revellers in Westminster last night were representatives from some of the games official partners, including Lloyds, which said its employees were “extremely excited to be reaching the one year to go milestone”.

PLAYING WITH FIRE
ALSO getting into the spirit last night was Freshfields senior partner Tim Jones, who has spearheaded the firm’s involvement with the Olympics.

Jones has been part of Freshfield’s 2012 project since 2003 – before the UK even won the bid – but it’s hard to imagine back then that he knew quite what being the official legal services provider to the games might entail.

Having managed to secure intellectual property rights for the now infamous clock, and procured the metals to make more than 2000 winners’ medals, The Capitalist hears the next challenge for the Freshfields team is to get the Olympic Torch – that’s a live flame – through UK customs when it makes its journey from Olympia in Greece next May .

An original way to test airport security.

FLIGHT TO SUCCESS
WITH Olympic fever gripping the capital, British Airways, the official airline partner of the 2012 Games, was determined to put its own stamp on the celebrations.

For the first time ever, the company emblazoned the underbelly of one of it’s A318 aircraft with a huge “One Year to Go” message (above) and sent it soaring from London City Airport across the Atlantic to New York.

Gary Copeland, director of engineering for British Airways, said “We hope it will bring a real sense of excitement to the Olympic Park and people living around the area.” Not to mention a lot of noise along its City flight path.