Football: Hoey targets 2005 championships

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KATE HOEY, the Minister for Sport, last night revealed that the architects working on plans for the new National Stadium at Wembley now believe that the pounds 475m project may not be completed until early 2004 - a year later than scheduled.

Hoey was here for meetings with senior international athletics officials to reinforce that "the government is committed to staging the World Championships in London". UK Athletics, the national governing body, had originally hoped to bring the world's third largest sporting event to Britain for the first time in 2003.

The International Amateur Athletic Federation's stated preference is for Paris to host the championships in 2003, and London two years later. "It is clear that the new IAAF president, Lamine Diack, is very keen on that, so we are willing to withdraw from 2003 and bid for 2005 instead," Hoey said. She added that the formal announcement of the award of the 2003 and 2005 World Championships was expected in Paris in April. "I am 99.9 per cent certain that London will get 2005," she said.

The minister maintained that there would be no problems in staging the athletics World Championships. "There are a different set of problems when you consider an Olympic bid, though," she said.

"The architects now tell me that the stadium probably will not be finished until late 2003 or even early 2004," Hoey said, "so it would not have been feasible for us to go ahead with the World Championships bid. It also means that we may be able to consider building the platform for the track at the very beginning, and keep it there for the first two years."

The development timetable will see the start of demolition work on the Twin Towers after next year's FA Cup final. The following two cup finals and all England internationals from late 2000 until 2003, at the earliest, would then be staged elsewhere. Hoey dismissed as "outrageous" suggestions that Wembley National Stadium plc might apply for compensation for lost revenues during the period when the venue was configured for athletics, and with its capacity reduced from 90,000 to 67,000.

Last night, Hoey attended a gala dinner at which Carl Lewis, the nine- time Olympic gold medallist, and Fanny Blanker-Koen, the 82-year-old Dutchwoman who won four gold medals at the 1948 Olympics staged at Wembley, were named as the IAAF's Athletes of the 20th Century.