Hackney united behind Olympic plan

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The Independent Online

Eeast London boroughs seeking to host the 2005 World Athletics Championships on the site of the derelict Hackney Stadium re-emphasised their political commitment yesterday on the eve of a key Government meeting.

Eeast London boroughs seeking to host the 2005 World Athletics Championships on the site of the derelict Hackney Stadium re-emphasised their political commitment yesterday on the eve of a key Government meeting.

A spokesman also revealed that talks had taken place with two Premiership teams from the London area over usage of the stadium once major international events had been held there. Arsenal, who have been seeking an alternative site to Highbury for more than a year, confirmed they had been in talks with the site owners, although a spokeswoman said the club's preferred option was to move 500 yards down the road at a council-owned site at Ashburton Grove.

Jules Pipe and Eric Ollerenshaw, respective leaders of the Labour and Conservative factions within Hackney Borough Council, sat alongside each other at Stratford Town Hall in support of a scheme that campaigners hope might lead to consideration as a site for the 2012 Olympics.

"This is a fantastic idea, and there is total political unity in support of it," Cllr Ollerenshaw said. He and his colleagues believe the atmosphere of local support, and the excellent transport links - including the A12 link road and the soon-to-be constructed Stratford International Rail Terminal, which will link St Pancras to the Channel Tunnel - will persuade the Department of Culture, Media and Sport working party to put the bid on their shortlist today when they seek to reduce the nine options on offer to perhaps two or three. Rival bids involving sites at Crystal Palace, Rainham Marshes, in Essex, and Hillingdon are also expected to figure strongly.

The owners of Hackney Stadium, NHP Developments Ltd, intend to commission the architects HOK+Lobb, who have just completed the venue for this year's Sydney Olympics. Their design, which would incorporate a sliding roof, would accommodate 50,000 seats for the World Championships, expanding to 80,000 for an Olympics, and reducing to 25,000 for future use by UK Athletics.

Dave Moorcroft, the chief executive of UK Athletics, is due to present a detailed bid to the International Amateur Athletic Federation in Paris on 2-3 April, but after seeing the Wembley option rise and fall, he may prefer to return to the international governing body with a couple of strong contenders and seek more time to finalise a bid, which has had to be re-cast at the eleventh hour.

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