New Wembley plans kicked into touch

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PLANS FOR a new stadium at Wembley were disrupted last night when the Secretary of State for Culture, Chris Smith, told the House of Commons that an independent report into the proposed pounds 475m edifice raised doubts about its suitability for international athletics events.

Mr Smith told the designers to go back to the drawing board. There will be a "thorough analysis of the process of decision-making by all parties up to this point". Not only will the development be delayed, it is doubtful whether Wembley will ever truly be a national stadium, rather than Britain's biggest football ground. The stadium has consistently been promoted by its owner, Wembley National Stadium Ltd (WNSL), as a potential site for the Olympic Games and has received pounds 120m in Lottery funding on that basis. WNSL stressed that the arena could be converted from a 90,000-seat football ground into an 80,000-seat Olympic stadium.

The report, by the US-based experts Ellerbe Becket, concludes: "This stadium ... cannot readily provide the central venue for an Olympic Games."

David Conn, Sport, page 30

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