Labour in bid to host global sporting events

The Government is to embark on a 20-year drive to attract prestigious sporting tournaments such as the Olympics and the football World Cup.

The move would try to restore Britain's shattered reputation for hosting major events, after the Wembley Stadium and Picketts Lock fiascos. It will be part of a wider blueprint for boosting British sport at all levels, from the grassroots to potential world-beaters.

The strategy is based on that adopted by Australia, which decided after a disastrous performance in the 1976 Montreal Olympics to overhaul its approach to sport. It hosted a commercially successful Olympics two years ago and came fourth in the medal table.

Most controversial will be the decision to give government support to a fresh attempt to win a major tournament. The move sets the scene for a government-backed bid to host the Olympics in London in 2012 or the World Cup in 2014 or 2018.

A Whitehall source said: "We don't want to be getting ourselves into the situation again where we're awarded a big event and have got nowhere to stage it."

The proposals are contained in the much-delayed report on the future of sport by the Downing Street strategy unit. Suggestions in a draft version that major championships are not economically viable have been removed. Instead, the report calls for the Government to be involved in early preparations for large events, co- ordinating the different agencies involved.

Ministers were determined to avoid a repeat of the wrangling over Wembley, Britain's humiliating loss of the 2005 World Athletic Championships because of its inability to build a stadium at Picketts Lock, north London, or the cash crisis that threatened to wreck this year's Commonwealth Games, the Whitehall source said.