Lock awaiting the key

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The Independent Online

David Moorcroft, the former 5,000 metres runner who is now the engaging and efficient chief executive of UK Athletics, is spending a worrying weekend in Paris. He knows it is all or nothing when he presents an ambitious double bid for the world indoor and outdoor athletics championships tomorrow. As he admits, securing the former for Birmingham in 2003 and the latter for Picketts Lock two years later is by no means a foregone conclusion.

"It is certainly not cut and dried," he says. "We'd be naïve if we did not think there might be some uncertainty because of the Wembley affair." While the International Athletics Federation Council may seem well disposed toward the British bids Moorcroft knows only too well the minefields which litter the fields of sports politics. He will need all his friendly persuasion to convince the IAAF, whose influential secretary-general, Istvan Gulyai, is Hungarian, that Birmingham's National Indoor Arena is a more congenial venue than Budapest; and while London is at present unopposed for the 2005 event to be staged at Picketts Lock, much will depend on whether the IAAF trust the word of the British government that this is more than just a promised landsite.

They are known to be sceptical about the way the farce over a new athletics stadium has unfolded and will not want to risk the embarrassment of having to switch to an alternative venue should Picketts Lock, which seems certain to cost up to double the £60m allocated from Lottery funds, run into financial problems.

It is conceivable that the IAAF may see Berlin as a safer option, even though the Germans missed the bid deadline. Moorcroft admits: "Realistically, if we don't get the world championships we'd have to start some heavy negotiations with the powers-that-be. I believe we can win. I certainly do not think we are in with any less of a chance than England have of getting the 2006 World Cup.

"The good thing is that we can build a stadium for the future and not one which simply reflects the past. They say Wembley is the stadium of legends. Ours can be the stadium of aspirations."

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