Inside Lines: More shadows over Wembley

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The Independent Online
When the prime minister, Tony Blair, lays the foundation stone for the new Commonwealth Games stadium in Manchester tomorrow no doubt it will cross his mind whether he will still be around, politically or even physically, for the opening of the reconstructed, twin towerless Wembley, whenever that may be. Has there ever been a more monumental cock-up in which politicians, planners and plotters are equally culpable? Following the findings of the independent report we are asked to wait until 15 December when all those involved muster under the gaze of the Secretary of State Chris Smith to try to mop up the mess. We shouldn't hold our breath. Nothing is likely to be resolved then, even though it is blatantly apparent that the ridiculously expensive, arch-about-face plans for a portable concrete platform, on which athletics would be run, is totally unworkable.The architects seem to have previous little knowledge about the sport, except that they want to make it jump through hoops. For one thing, while in athletics mode, it would mean that New Wembley would not be able to host any football at all, including the Olympic football final. The reduced size of the football pitch would not meet Fifa regulations, so in the event of Wembley staging the Olympics, football, the second most important - and best attended - sport in the Games, would have to be held elsewhere. And if Wembley were to stage the 2005 world athletics championsips, which now seems unlikely, any qualifying matches England would have to play assuming they are not the host nation (which now seems likely) could not be held there because of the time needed to build and dismantle the running track. Crazy or what? And there's more. Marathons and walking events could not, as is traditional, finish in the stadium because there would be no suitable access; the roof over the track would give three of the eight lanes unfair protection from the elements and equipment for the steeplechase would have to be helicoptered in. How did this silly idea ever get off the starting blocks?

Don't blame me says Banks, page 6

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