SERIOUS DOUBTS' ABOUT NEW WEMBLEY

An independent sports architecture report "raises serious doubts about the viability" of athletics events for the proposed new national stadium at Wembley, according to Culture, Media and Sport Secretary Chris Smith.

An independent sports architecture report "raises serious doubts about the viability" of athletics events for the proposed new national stadium at Wembley, according to Culture, Media and Sport Secretary Chris Smith.

Mr Smith told the House of Commons today he had reached the "reluctant conclusion" the present design "cannot readily provide the central venue for an Olympic Games bid for London".

It was unlikely the stadium, as designed, could provide an appropriate venue for the World Athletics Championships which Britain hoped to host in 2005.

Wembley National Stadium Ltd and Sport England had been asked to report by December 15 with any solutions they were able to propose.

A "cost-effective solution" might be found, Mr Smith said, but added that funding arrangements might need to be modified if the new stadium was to concentrate simply on its primary role as a venue for football and rugby.

Shadow culture, media and sport secretary Peter Ainsworth said the announcement left Smith in an "invidious position entirely of his own Government's making".

Ainsworth said further delay would undermine England's 2006 World Cup bid but pressing ahead with a stadium incapable of holding the Olympics would be a missed opportunity.

Mr Ainsworth told Smith: "Dither, delay and incompetence - these have become your defining characteristics."

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