Inside Lines: Staying on track needs more than a word from West Ham
Sunday 02 October 2011
Securing the future of the 2012 Olympic Stadium, fast becoming a tedious tug-of-war with West Ham, Tottenham and Leyton Orient all tossing in their two penn'orth, is now a Government priority.
The International Association of Athletics Federations' Evaluation Commission, headed by their senior vice-president, the American Bob Hersh, are in town this week wanting to know exactly what the heck is going on. The IAAF will decide next month whether London or Qatar will host the 2017 World Athletics Championships. It may well hinge on whether the sports minister Hugh Robertson and London's mayor, Boris Johnson, can convince him that the issue will be settled before the crucial vote.
Hence the crafty "ultimatum" from Johnson that the £17m offer to help Spurs remain in north London, which Orient chairman Barry Hearn whimsically calls a "bung", will be withdrawn if the club does not drop a High Court hearing on 18 October, a month before the IAAF meet in Monte Carlo. One of the reasons why Spurs are dragging their heels could be that there has been no written agreement that the track will be kept by West Ham. Spurs believe it was their own refusal to retain this facility, instead offering to upgrade Crystal Palace, which ruled them out.
It is odd that we still only have West Ham's word for it that they will keep the track. Spurs may feel justly aggrieved if there is no Government insistence that a clause is inserted in a lease which was due to be drawn up months ago yet still has to be formalised. But Robertson assures me: "It is absolutely my intention to ensure the track will be there for the duration of the lease in line with the commitment made at the time of the 2012 bid."
The fact is, all those involved with the 2012 bid made a huge mistake by bottling out of making the Olympic Stadium a Stade de Stratford, with Parisian-style retractable seating over the track which would have suited both football and athletics. The extra few million quid might well have saved a lot of aggro.
Talking of tug-of-war, some home-grown exploits in the real thing saw England collect a fistful of medals last weekend – including gold – in the 16-nation European Championships at Butlins in Minehead (all together now, hi-di-heave-ho!).
I have always thought it a shame that it is no longer an Olympic event – Britain were the last champions, in 1920. There is still lots of tugging going on here, though, with around 40 clubs and a national league, and it is becoming popular in schools again, especially among women. So should you fancy a spot of mixed pulling (it's allowed), contact tug-of-war.co.uk.
Sorry Haroon, no Khan do
AIBA, the international governing body of amateur boxing, continue to punch themselves in the face. Following Newsnight's Azerbaijan allegations about cash for 2012 Olympic gold, hotly denied and now being investigated, the oddly favourable seedings for that nation in the current World Championship and the idiotic banning of pro coaches from the corner, we have their latest edict, an arbitrary decision to bar Amir Khan's kid brother Haroon from representing Pakistan at the Championships and the Olympics.
This despite the fact that he won a bronze medal for that country in the last Commonwealth Games (after being told he wasn't good enough to make GB's elite squad) and holds a dual passport. Autocratic AIBA belatedly say he isn't eligible for any of their tournaments because he once wore an England vest as a junior. His father, Shah, has lodged an appeal and Haroon might well feel miffed, knowing how easy it is in this country for foreign athletes to become "plastic Brits", handed a vest of convenience because they may have had a grandmother who once lodged in Chipping Sodbury.
Taking a dive in Newham
Newham's well-used swimming pool, deep in east London's 2012 heartland, which has been closed because of asbestos problems, will not now reopen because the local council can't afford the repairs. Do you get that sinking feeling about Olympic legacy?
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