Britain wins indoor and outdoor worlds

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The Independent Online

Britain did the double in Paris yesterday as it sought its first global athletics championship since the 1948 Olympics.

The long years of waiting were settled within the space of an hour and half as the International Amateur Athletic Federation Council awarded London the 2005 World Championships and then chose Birmingham ahead of Budapest as hosts of the 2003 World Indoor Championships.

"This is great news for athletics in the UK," said Chris Smith, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, who headed both of yesterday morning's presentations at the Hotel Meridien in Montparnasse. "We have never hosted these events and I am delighted that we now have the chance to set that straight."

The 2005 event will take place at the 125-acre site in Picketts Lock, near Edmonton, which was selected at the eleventh hour following the collapse of plans to stage athletics at a redesigned Wembley.

The major worry for the London bidders yesterday was that the IAAF would delay a final decision in order to seek further financial assurances. That would have allowed Berlin - which missed the original deadline - to enter the race.

"We are chuffed," Dave Moorcroft, the UK Athletics chief executive, said. "We were very, very well grilled, but in the end the Council went ahead with absolute confidence. It was a great help that we had such a strong team for the presentation."

Council members accepted the verbal guarantees offered at the presentation that finance will be forthcoming for a project that will require the building of a new 50,000-seater stadium and a new railway station.

The government has pledged £60m to the project, and another £5m will come from the site owner, Lee Valley Regional Park Authority. Moorcroft described estimates that the total cost would be around £120m as "way over the top", and added that there would be a six-month review to decide on the best way to plan and manage the project.

Smith shared that view, saying: "We, the Government, have already promised £60m plus, we have got the money to come back from Wembley and following UK Athletics' discussions with surveyors we feel that it is within what we have budgeted for," he said.

Smith said that the infrastructure would be in place such as transport, which was one of the main areas of concern for the Council, and that there would be no problem getting planning permission.

The stadium will reconfigure to a more useful 20,000 capacity after the championships, when it will also be equipped with a retractable roof. It will retain the capacity to be expanded to 80,000 capacity in the event of Britain siting an Olympic bid there. The Lee Valley Stadium is likely to host a partnership of sports to help with revenue costs following the 2005 Championships, rather than seeking the tenancy of a large football club, such as Tottenham Hotspur.

In the wake of the Wembley fiasco, the Sports Minister Kate Hoey - mindful of the Government's manifesto commitment to securing world class sporting events - travelled to Birmingham to encourage the city to throw its hat into the ring for the World Indoor Championships.

Birmingham has responded to the challenge, with the City Council pledging £500,000 and as much again in kind. "Three months ago we weren't intending to bid, but we received a lot of encouragement in our meeting with Kate Hoey," said Ian Ward, a City Councillor. "Being chosen here will put Birmingham firmly in the eyes of the world."

Although Budapest, which hosted the 1998 European Championships, may have received a sentimental vote from Council members following the destruction of its stadium in a fire, there was little arguing with the merits of Birmingham's bid once the financial guarantees had been secured.

The National Indoor Arena is acknowledged as one of the best indoor stadiums, having hosted numerous world championships in seven sports.