Inquiry to report on Wembley capacity

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MINISTERS WILL receive a crucial report assessing the suitability of the new National Stadium at Wembley for hosting Olympic Games within the next week, it was confirmed yesterday.

The Government commissioned the independent study amid concern over whether the lower tiers of Wembley can be reconfigured to provide 80,000 seats to boost Britain's 2012 Olympic bid. The International Olympic Committee rules demand that stadiums must have a capacity of 80,000.

The new stadium will seat 90,000 spectators for football and rugby league but, when its temporary athletics track is in use, the capacity would drop to 68,000.

Kate Hoey, the Sport Minister, told MPs during question time that she expected the report to be submitted "within the next seven to ten days".

Earlier this month, Ms Hoey angered supporters of the pounds 475m construction at Wembley when she stressed she would scrap the design if she could.

But ministers are in danger of infuriating the Football Association with their continued criticism because any delay to the stadium would endanger the 2006 World Cup bid.

Ms Hoey told MPs: "We want to be assured that it is a national stadium, that there is an opportunity for athletics for the World Championships which we hope to perhaps be able to host in 2005, and for an Olympic bid to be still possible." pounds 120m of lottery funding has been awarded to the project.

In a separate exchange, Peter Ainsworth, for the Conservative Party, challenged Chris Smith, the Culture, Media and Sport Secretary: "There is now a real possibility that we will have a national stadium which can't host the Olympic Games.

"If the Government isn't responsible, isn't to blame for the breathtaking and pitiful bungling of this major national project, we would like to know who is."