UK's reputation is 'dead' if Spurs get the Olympic stadium, says athletics chief
Cahal Milmo is the chief reporter of The Independent and has been with the paper since 2000. He was born in London and previously worked at the Press Association news agency. He has reported on assignment at home and abroad, including Rwanda, Sudan and Burkina Faso, the phone hacking scandal and the London Olympics. In his spare time he is a keen runner and cyclist, and keeps an allotment.
Friday 21 January 2011
As West Ham United and Tottenham Hotspur submit their final proposals today for taking over the Olympic Stadium, the head of world athletics has warned that Britain's sporting reputation would be "dead" were Spurs to be granted preferred bidder status next week.
Lamine Diack, the president of the IAAF, said that any future for the Olympic Stadium that did not include a running track – a legacy heavily sold when London secured the Games – would be a "big lie."
Asked what the impact a successful Tottenham bid would have on British sport's global standing Diack replied: "You can consider you are dead. You are finished. There is no way to come back to make any proposal as far as my generation is concerned. I think as far as this, I think they will be finished. There will be no credibility... of a great country like Britain and I like very much your country.
"They will have made a big lie to us during their presentation [in Singapore in 2005]. A big lie. And after that it is a betrayal," he told the BBC.
Tottenham's controversial bid, which involves flattening the stadium and rebuilding a 60,000-capacity arena minus a running track, has attracted significant criticism, not least from among their own supporters. They plan to redevelop the Crystal Palace athletics stadium in south London to satisfy legacy demands. Significantly the Olympic Park Legacy Company, the body that selects the winning bid, is under no obligation to provide a particular athletics legacy.
Yesterday West Ham, who will keep the running track, issued a strong defence of their bid. In a timely statement, released shortly before Diack's interview, the club said: "The 2012 Olympics for London was won on the commitment of keeping the stadium for athletics. It's important for the UK's credibility as a sporting nation – especially in the wake of the 2018 Fifa World Cup disappointment – to keep that promise."
The Olympic Park Legacy Company hope to chose a preferred bidder for the stadium by the end of next week, although they may yet delay the decision – they have set a deadline of the end of March. Their choice is subject to the final approval of the Mayor of London and the government.
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