Inside Lines: World Cup blow for Olympic Stadium after Barry Hearn move


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The Independent Online

The Olympic Stadium is likely to be ruled out as a venue for the Rugby World Cup when the 12 grounds are confirmed this week.

D-Day for the 2015 tournament's chief executive, Debbie Jevans, is Thursday and she had been hoping to announce the inclusion of the stadium, where last summer she helped orchestrate the Olympics as the London 2012 sports director.

But the legal spanner in the works thrown last week by Leyton Orient's chairman, Barry Hearn, in calling for a judicial review of the decision to reject his club's bid for ground-sharing with preferred tenants West Ham will delay the £160 million work to convert the stadium for athletics and both codes of football. Nine of the 12 grounds will be football stadiums, including Wembley, St James' Park, Old Trafford and Elland Road, financial agreement having been reached with the Premier League, Football Association and individual clubs, all of whom will profit from World Cup matches to be played on non-football fixture days in autumn 2015.

Twickenham, the Millennium Stadium and Gloucester's Kingsholm are the only rugby grounds earmarked, to the sport's displeasure. The London Legacy Development Corporation, who own the Olympic Stadium, say they continue to work with Jevans to find a solution over its use, but time is running out.

While publicly upbeat, London's mayor, Boris Johnson, is privately pessimistic about an agreement being reached soon over the stadium's future.

Saints and sinners

After our story about Elmbridge Council in Surrey allowing Chelsea to build an indoor training pitch while rejecting a new archery centre, both on green-belt land, we hear of another council doffing their cap to the god football while blowing the whistle on Olympic legacy.

Sports organisations in Southampton, including an academy where Tom Daley and his 2012 Olympic synchro partner, Pete Waterfield, trained, a gymnastics club which has produced medal-winning athletes over four decades and several school sports projects, have had funding denied. But the Labour-run council have given £17,000 to Premier League club Southampton FC's affiliated Saints Foundation.

Councillor Andrew Pope, who unsuccessfully opposed the move, described it as "a public relations exercise", adding: "It should be the football business and the players who fund the Saints Foundation. We should not have funds taken from true voluntary organisations. We're taking money away from diving when we have got an Olympic silver medallist [Waterfield] living in the city."

The same council have managed to find £27,000 to support a group providing advice for people coming from other EU countries, and £39,000 for another which describes its mission as "communicating the rich and exciting experience of South Asian art to the public". The diving centre had applied for a mere £5,000.

Greece talk Turkey

Hard on the heels of wrestling finding improbable bedfellows in the United States, Russia and Iran to fight the move to drop the sport from the Olympics, and that curious slam-dunk diplomacy between ex-US basketball star Dennis Rodman and North Korea leader Kim Jung-un, comes news of another unlikely alliance.

Greece has pledged support for Istanbul's bid for the 2020 Olympics despite the hostility and four wars with Turkey dating back to 1821, when Greece won independence from the Ottoman empire. Not to mention the still-existing division of Cyprus.

"The ties between Turkey and Greece have been strengthened thanks to the power of the Olympic Movement to build bridges," says Istanbul 2020's bid leader, Hasan Arat. Let's hope their harmony lingers longer than the Pyongchang love-in. Cuddly Kim was so clearly enamoured with oddball Rodman that a week later he is threatening to nuke America.