Alan Hubbard: Coe was 'ready to quit' if stadium plans had not stayed on track

Inside Lines: New long-term lease strengthens London's bid for the 2017 World Athletics Championships
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The Independent Online

Had the vexed question of the future of the Olympic Stadium not been resolved by the guaranteed inclusion of a running track, London 2012 would almost certainly be seeking a new Games overlord. I understand from senior 2012 sources that Lord Coe probably would have quit as Locog chairman, so strongly does he feel about retaining the athletics facility he promised International Olympic Committee members when London won the Olympic bid in 2005.

Coe and the Sports Minister, Hugh Robertson, subsequently made it clear that the track's retention was "non-negotiable". The collapse of the original deal last week came after Newham Council apparently got "cold feet" over the legality of the proposed loan of £40 million to West Ham, whose commitment to keep the track was only verbal.

Now the Government will ensure it is written into a long-term lease of no less than 50 years. This strengthens London's bid for the 2017 World Athletics Championships – and Coe's ambition to be the next president of the International Association of Athletics Federations. Had the pledge been broken, the chances of both would have been scuppered. Robertson seems to have made the best of what was a messy, virtually unworkable deal. "We had to find a way out of this ridiculous legal tangle and move things forward again," he tells me.

With Tottenham out of the picture, the way ahead could be to broker a ground-sharing arrangement between West Ham, the most likely principal tenant, and Leyton Orient. The Hammers are potentially the big winners in all this, likely to pay a peppercorn annual rent of £2m instead of footing the £95m bill for the reconfiguration to a football stadium (roughly the amount it would have cost for Stade de France-style roll-over seating, which would have saved all the current aggro). No wonder Karen Brady's bunch are blowing bubbles – out of vintage champagne bottles, no doubt.

Pressure on Woodward

Sir Clive Woodward flew to New Zealand on Wednesday for the final stages of rugby union's World Cup, disappointed at England's shoddy exit but reassuring the British Olympic Association, whose annual fund-raising bash he successfully orchestrated, that there is no way he will be sweet-talked into doing an about-turn on his decision to reject a return to Twickenham – for now. England's poor displays on and off the field have renewed pressure on the former World Cup-winning coach to reconsider, but he insists he wants to complete his 2012 mission with Team Britain. Twickenham can wait, he reckons – and they probably will.



Double top-up in Dublin

We know they love a good craic in Dublin, but even Barry Hearn, taking time off from hurling poisoned 'arrers at the Olympic Legacy bods on behalf of Orient, was gob-smacked at the enthusiasm for his World Darts Grand Prix event held there last week and won by Phil "The Power" Taylor.Equally chuffed were bar owners around the New Convention Centre, where punters quaffed €1.5m (£1.3m) worth of booze, most of it Guinness, over the seven days, which embraced the Ireland v Wales World Cup game. Not a single arrest or report of drunken behaviour. Mind you, the England rugby players were a good few thousand miles away.



Klitschko kicks off campaign

Vitali Klitschko has more on his mind than tempting David Haye out of retirement. The WBC heavyweight champion, 40, who leads the Punch political party in his Ukraine homeland, has taken on another fight: to ensure Ukraine, whose infrastructure has been questioned, will be ready to co-host football's Euro 2012 finals with Poland. "This is a chance to show everybody we are European and modern," says Klitschko, who one day hopes to be his nation's president. "Nelson Mandela said that sport had power to change the world. I believe Euro 2012 has the power to change Ukraine. There are people who doubted whether we could do it, but I say, 'Yes we can'." Anyone want to argue with him?



insidelines@independent.co.uk

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