Inside Lines: Own goal for games legacy as stadium is mothballed


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The Independent Online

When Lord Coe was duly acclaimed as the new chair of the British Olympic Association last week, did we hear the trumpeting of a white elephant in the room? Just a few hours before it had been revealed that the £486 million Olympic Stadium will be mothballed at least until 2015 –and possibly later.

So, it will lay dormant for another three or four years while £200m – double the original estimate – is spent converting it into a multi-sports venue with retractable seating over the immoveable running track, a feature now recognised as essential for a football tenant – most likely West Ham. There is even the possibility that, if the refurbishment is not completed on schedule, the stadium, reduced to 60,000 capacity, would not be ready to host the world athletics championships in 2017, or any other athletics event. No wonder Coe said tersely: "As a vice-president of the IAAF I will be watching the situation closely." There is no doubt that this is a serious blow to Coe's promised legacy of 2012, the glorious drama of the iconic Olympics and Paralympics now threatening a farcical postscript.

Moreover, the question of who will pay for the upgrade remains unresolved, with West Ham, some £80m in debt, saying they would contribute only £10m on the premise that the landlord should provide facilities. The possibility of the taxpayer having to subsidise a Premier League club is causing unease at Westminster where the shadow sports minister, Clive Efford, told the Independent on Sunday: "These delays can only mean more public money is spent on maintaining the stadium. I would rather see this money go to community sport." The delay also underlines the own goal scored seven years ago when, despite knowing that the stadium's only viable future was with a national sport like football, the successful Games bid team rejected the idea of installing Stade de France-style retractable seating, which in that more clement economic climate could have been included for little more than the cost of West Ham's striker from Mali.

Rude awakening needed

The unacceptable face of racism now embraces the long-term use of the Y-word at Tottenham according to the Society of Black Lawyers. While that debate rages, it is interesting to note that the former FA chair Lord Triesman, himself Jewish, believes that anti-Semitic abuse is as evident in football as that of blacks and Asians. He revealed to the Jewish Chronicle that in the wake of the John Terry affair he received "more anti-Semitic abuse than in the whole of my professional career". What is it about football that drags it apart from the rest of sport in attracting those who take a perverse delight in being stuck in a time-warp where such gross behaviour is prevalent? Did you hear any effing and blinding, calling the referee a wanker, or see monkey gestures at any venue during the Olympics? Or would you ever at Wimbledon, Twickenham, The Open, a boxing arena or anywhere else sport is played? What do sports psychiatrists make of that?

Million dollar babies

Carl Froch has come a long way since an American promoter queried: "Who the froch is Froch?" He is now the best-known warrior to come out of Nottingham since Robin Hood and next Saturday the 35-year-old IBF super-middleweight champion makes a bread-and-butter home-town defence against American Yusaf Mack, a bout Sky will screen in 3D. In his corner, as always, will be his trainer, Robert McCracken, who is also the coach to GB's Olympic boxing squad, and now to the newly formed British Lionhearts who will compete in the revolutionary World Series of Boxing, offering salaries, appearance money, win bonuses and, ultimately, $1m (£630,000) prize money for the winning team. A real incentive for young Olympians not to officially turn pro.