Running scared at Wembley
Sunday 29 October 2000
Any advance on £660m? The way the Wembley costs are spiralling, the final bill for Ken Bates' new stately home for football will comfortably hurdle the billion-pound barrier by the time the first brick is laid, according to expert opinion in the City. The words chickens and roost come to mind, thanks to the wrong-headness of Sport England and the Culture Secretary Chris Smith and the pig-headedness of Bates and Co. Despite those glittering Olympic prizes we remain, embarrassingly, the only significant sporting nation in the world without a multi-purpose national stadium to its name. Moreover, serious financial and environmental doubts have arisen about the viability of Picketts Lock to host the World Athletics Championships in 2005. London mayor Ken Livingstone is refusing to sign the required guarantee to assure the championships financially until the Government coughs up the promised cash. Now we hear whispers of a Downing Street re-think, which, in the increasingly likely event of Wembley not rais
Any advance on £660m? The way the Wembley costs are spiralling, the final bill for Ken Bates' new stately home for football will comfortably hurdle the billion-pound barrier by the time the first brick is laid, according to expert opinion in the City. The words chickens and roost come to mind, thanks to the wrong-headness of Sport England and the Culture Secretary Chris Smith and the pig-headedness of Bates and Co. Despite those glittering Olympic prizes we remain, embarrassingly, the only significant sporting nation in the world without a multi-purpose national stadium to its name. Moreover, serious financial and environmental doubts have arisen about the viability of Picketts Lock to host the World Athletics Championships in 2005. London mayor Ken Livingstone is refusing to sign the required guarantee to assure the championships financially until the Government coughs up the promised cash. Now we hear whispers of a Downing Street re-think, which, in the increasingly likely event of Wembley not raising the cash, Lottery assistance would be forthcoming on condition that a permanent running track is installed and Bates is replaced as chairman.
Boot the suits, says Hoey's shadow
John Greenway, who has discreetly and, he says, deliberately kept himself in the shadows as the Opposition spokesman on sport until the Olympic dust settled, has now come out of the blue corner ready to rattle a few establishment cages Not only is he scathing about the woes of Wembley ("It was a big mistake to kick out athletics. It should have been our Stade de France but the whole thing has become a shambles. Heads should have been banged together") but he is equally trenchant in his views about another troubled national edifice, the UK Sports Institute. "The Government have buggered it about," he says. "It was all part of John Major's dream that we should have a hands-on, track-suit environment, not a load of bureaucrats in suits sitting in an office in Russell Square. I'm not opposed to the regional structure, which would have evolved anyway, but the time it has taken to get the whole thing up and running is pretty disgraceful." His remarks bring a sharp response from the Russell Square headquarters of UK Sport, where the hub of the multi-spoked Institute is situated. "To describe us as bureaucrats is nonsense," says the Institute's director Roger Moreland, a former teacher and basketball coach. "The majority of those who will be working with the Institute have had considerable experience in sport and will be out and about working with the athletes and performance directors. They are certainly not suits."
Banks no to watchdog role
The former sports minister, Tony Banks, has declared himself a non-runner for the vacant post of chairman of the Independent Football Commission. "No way," replied Chelsea fan Banks when it was suggested he might apply to his old ministerial boss Chris Smith for the £15,000 per annum, four-days-a-month job as football's top watchdog. "I'm enjoying just being a supporter again too much." Banks is also contemplating writing a book about England's failure to secure the 2006 World Cup, for which he was Tony Blair's ambassador, though he is awaiting the outcome of the All-Party Parliamentary Select Committee investigation into the £10m-plus bid, which he says he welcomes. "The book will only happen if there's sufficient interest to warrant it."
Fox predicts another lady's day
No one was more delighted at the last-day double success in Sydney of modern pentathletes Stephanie Cook and Kate Allenby than Jim Fox, who first put the sport on the sporting map here when he led the British men's team to gold in the Montreal Olympics of 1976. Until recently the president of the Modern Pentathlon Association of Great Britain, Fox, who is now 59 and stricken with Parkinson's Disease, goes to Buckingham Palace on Tuesday to collect an OBE, self-effacingly insisting that the gong, in his case really is down to "other buggers' efforts". He says: "I feel I am accepting it on behalf of all those behind the scenes who have worked so hard to to bring the sport back to world class level, the people who stand in the wind and rain in their wellies making it possible for competitors like Steph and Kate to come back with the medals." Fox, always a good judge of talent, reckons there could be rich pickings in the next Games, too. "Keep an eye on Georgina Harland," he says. "She's something special."
Bob a job for Regis?
John Regis, not so long ago the fastest man in Europe and the Commonwealth over 200 metres, missed the last Olympics but he may well be in evidence at the next. The Winter Games, that is. Last week Regis, 36, was to be seen on a different sort of track, pushing the bob out at Lillehammer in Norway during the British selection trials for the Salt Lake City Games in 2002. He wasaccompanied by his former running mate Marcus Adam, 32, who unfortunately ended up in hospital with a shoulder injury after being involved in one of several crashes. According to former top bobber Mark Tout, who, as we revealed last week, ismaking a comeback after his four-year drugs suspension, both ex-athletes have a good chance of making it. "It's up to them," says Tout. "They obviously have the strength and speed but it is down to them whether they are dedicated enough to acquire the technique. " For Tout himself, the triumph of the two-man bob, which he piloted to victory a week ago, turned to disaster in Thursday's four-man event, when he and his crew weredisqualified after finishing fastest. "We were overweight." headmitted glumly. "A gross miscalculation on my part. But there'll be other chances."
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