BOA still unhappy at new stadium plans

Click to follow
The Independent Online

The British Olympic Association on Wednesday welcomed news that a rebuilt Wembley Stadium would be able to stage an athletics World Championship in 2005. But the BOA said it was still concerned that the stadium might not be big enough to hold an Olympics seven years later.

The British Olympic Association on Wednesday welcomed news that a rebuilt Wembley Stadium would be able to stage an athletics World Championship in 2005. But the BOA said it was still concerned that the stadium might not be big enough to hold an Olympics seven years later.

Wembley is being rebuilt as the centerpiece of England's bid to stage soccer's World Cup in 2006. But the owners, having been promised revenue from Britain's National Lottery, initially pledged it would also be capable of staging both the World Championships and Olympics. Britain plans bids for the 2005 worlds and the 2012 Olympics.

Those plans were thrown into doubt when it was revealed that the building of a temporary athletics track would reduce the capacity from 90,000 to 67,000. Although that would satisfy organizers of the World track Championship, reports suggested that International Olympic Committee's preference was for an arena with at least 80,000 seats.

The government's Environment Minister, Chris Smith, whose department governs sport, effectively told the owners to go back to the drawing board and report back this week.

Wembley National Stadium Ltd had talks with UK Athletics, which is bidding to stage the World Championship in 2005, and convinced the federation the stadium would be big enough for the event.

But the BOA says the bigger issue of the Olympics remains a worry.

"The BOA is pleased to learn that WNSL has now provided UK Athletics with the necessary assurances regarding Wembley's ability to stage the 2005 World Athletics Championship," the association said in a statement.

"However, the BOA continues to have serious reservations concerning the ability of Wembley to increase its athletic capacity to that required for an Olympic Games.

"These concerns, raised as soon as we learnt of Wembley's 'Olympic Solution', have been fueled by the independent report from Ellerbe Becket and subsequent meetings and discussions."

The BOA chairman, Craig Reedie, and chief executive Simon Clegg plan to meet Smith and Sports Minister Kate Hoey on Thursday to press for a solution.

The issue is further complicated by reports that a separate, 25,000 capacity track stadium might be built alongside Wembley. It would be used for Grand Prix athletics meets and as a warm-up arena if Britain were awarded the Olympics.

A group of constructors have also announced they would build a 150,000-capacity stadium to the west of London if the new Wembley didn't prove to be big enough to stage an Olympics.

Comments