Athletics: Samaranch gives boost to Wembley

JUAN ANTONIO Samaranch stepped into the row over the future of Wembley stadium yesterday when he said that an arena holding 65,000 spectators would be big enough to host the Summer Games.

Last week the Government, with its eyes on a possible 2012 Olympic bid as well as on its campaign to host the 2006 football World Cup, gave Wembley officials 14 days to find a better way of rebuilding the stadium so it could stage track and field as well as football.

The demand came after the Sports Minister, Kate Hoey, commissioned a special report as plans showed it would be able to accommodate only around 65,000 for athletics events. British Olympic officials said that this was not big enough.

But Samaranch, the International Olympic Committee president, said: "I think 65,000 is enough. I think Barcelona [which hosted the 1992 Summer Games] was less than 60,000. Why not? For me, it is enough. In the Olympic Games and the World Cup, the number of spectators, 60 to 65,000 is enough. The importance is the billions of people watching on television. We have no rules there must be 65,000, 80,000 or 90,000."

As the controversy over the venue for a British Olympic bid continues, British athletics, still hoping to host the 2005 World Championships, yesterday attempted to suggest a way forward by dodging the Olympic issue altogether. Dave Moorcroft, chief executive of UK Athletics, set out an agenda on behalf of the Championship bidding group which offered his sport what he described as "the best of both worlds."

While the Government is due to announce on 15 December whether the planned conversion of Wembley stadium into an athletics venue is feasible - by inserting a 15-foot high concrete platform accommodating a track into the centre of the stadium - Moorcroft has no option but to hope for the best.

Working on the assumption that the rebuilt Wembley will not be completed in any form until 2004, he is calling for an athletics venue to be in place when the stadium opens, which would save an estimated pounds 20m. And Moorcroft wants athletics to take advantage of Wembley by staging a special meeting to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Roger Bannister's four- minute mile.

Moorcroft believes the sport can meet the challenge of filling the stadium - which would have a capacity of 67,000 - for such an event, and believes it would form the ideal precursor to the following year's World Championships. Looking beyond 2005, Moorcroft suggests that the warm-up track which would have to be in place for any World Championships could be expanded to form a separate national stadium for athletics with a capacity of approximately 25,000, which he believes would be sufficient to host events such as Grand Prix 1 meetings, the European Cup and perhaps, the European Championships.

The two possible sites for the warm-up facility are either on the car park site next to the stadium or to the north of the stadium on what is currently a light industrial site, though this would involve a compulsory purchase order.

But there was a sense that the World Championship bidding committee were clutching at straws yesterday as even Moorcroft acknowledged that it looked "more and more likely" that Wembley would end up as a stadium for football and rugby.

Moorcroft reflected ruefully on Sport England's request that the World Championship bidders should stay at arm's length from the negotiations over Wembley's design. The Sport England contribution of pounds 120m worth of Lottery money to the project was given on the understanding that Wembley should house football, rugby and athletics. But now that usage is in doubt. "In hindsight we should have forced the issue and said we must be involved at every stage of the negotiations," Moorcroft said.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Recruitment Consultant / Account Manager - Surrey / SW London

£40000 per annum + realistic targets: Ashdown Group: A thriving recruitment co...

Ashdown Group: Part-time Payroll Officer - Yorkshire - Professional Services

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful professional services firm is lo...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before