Palace not ready for abdication

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The success of last week's Norwich Union British Grand Prix may bring a reprieve for the crumbling ancestral home of athletics. Crystal Palace, due to be dumped in favour of the new national stadium at Pickett's Lock, put on the glad rags for what was popularly supposed to be the last big meeting to be held there. No so, says Alan Pascoe, the former hurdles ace who made his own farewell appearance there and how heads Fast Track, the sport's promoters. "We have an agreement to take the event there for the next three years and we have every reason to hope this will be honoured, especially after last week when the attendance and the atmosphere was simply fantastic," he says. Pascoe believes it would be a tragedy if the Palace is written off before, and even after the new national stadium is opened. "The sport desperately needs Crystal Palace as a major training centre and venue for county and regional championships. It has a cachet about it that is unrivalled and I hope the powers-that-bee will have noted the

The success of last week's Norwich Union British Grand Prix may bring a reprieve for the crumbling ancestral home of athletics. Crystal Palace, due to be dumped in favour of the new national stadium at Pickett's Lock, put on the glad rags for what was popularly supposed to be the last big meeting to be held there. No so, says Alan Pascoe, the former hurdles ace who made his own farewell appearance there and how heads Fast Track, the sport's promoters. "We have an agreement to take the event there for the next three years and we have every reason to hope this will be honoured, especially after last week when the attendance and the atmosphere was simply fantastic," he says. Pascoe believes it would be a tragedy if the Palace is written off before, and even after the new national stadium is opened. "The sport desperately needs Crystal Palace as a major training centre and venue for county and regional championships. It has a cachet about it that is unrivalled and I hope the powers-that-bee will have noted the support and enthusiasm for athletics generated there last week." The problem is that owners Bromley Council are reluctant to re-invest because of what is perceived as a massive snub by Sport England in downgrading the Palace's role both as a sporting venue to a less than auspicious spoke of the new SportsInstitute. But Pascoe is right to plead for a re-think. It is by no means absolutely certain that the present feasibility study will give the go-ahead to Pickett's Lock, which could mean that a temporary track may have to be built at Wembley after all for the 2005 World Championships. In this case the 17,000-capacity Palace would still be required to serve as England's principal athletics arena.One of the main criticism aboiut the venue has been isinaccessibility but significantly last week the traffic flowed freely and there were few delays. The main reason was that Fast Track scrapped car park charges, allowing unfettered access through the barriers. Obviously, it it too much to hope that such an altruistic gesture will be followed by New Wembley who, by all accounts, need every penny they can lay their hands on to meet costs which have now escalated from the projected £475m to around £600m, which will mean punters having to pay through the nose as well as the turnstiles.

Fan Chan's supporting role

Sarah Stevenson who, at just 17, will be Britain's youngestcompetitor in Sydney, and our only female in the debutant Olympic sport of taekwondo, has received an unexpected financial boost from a Hollywood hero. Martial arts star Jackie Chan, who heard how her parents held car boot sales to subsidise her training, invited her to the London premiÿre of his film Shanghai Noon this weekend, the proceeds of which he is donating towards her expenses. He also invited Sarah to take part with him on stage in a kung fu demonstration. The Doncaster student may be one of Britain's least-known Olympians but she is a genuine medal prospect in a sport dominated by theKoreans. She is the reigningEuropean junior champion and is ranked fourth in world. Chan's generosity also means that her parents Roy and Diana can be in Sydney to support her. As gestures go in martial arts, it is certainly better than a kick in he teeth, which, of course, is precisely is what the long-limbed Sarah will be aiming to inflict on her opponents in Sydney.

Walk on the wild side

A scrawled missive from Ron Wallwork, JP, the Commonwealth Games 20-miles road walking champion in 1966, was certainly worth a second glance. Reminding us that this weekend the Captain Barclay Millennium Challenge, a non-stop 24-hour walk covering 125 miles named after "that great 19th century exponent of pedestrianism" is taking place around Newmarket Heath, he adds: "Race walkers, because of their rolling gait which involves hip-swinging, bottom-wiggling and heel-and-toe mode of progression, tend to receive more ridicule (not to mention the occasional tin can and apple core), than acclaim. They often receive insults like 'poof', 'fairy' and 'where's your handbag, ducky?' but these are the true iron men of the highway." No answer to that, Ron. Just keep rolling along.

An acronym to remember

The list of groups threatening protest during the Olympics is long and colourful, none perhaps more so than one which calls itself People Ingeniously Subverting the Sydney Olympic Farce. Otherwise known as PISSOF. Only in Australia. . .

insidelines@independent.co.uk

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