Athletes in plea to keep track at Olympic Stadium

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The Independent Online

Olympic champions Dame Kelly Holmes, Daley Thompson and Sally Gunnell are among a host of former British athletes who have made a passionate plea in an open letter for the Olympic Stadium to retain an athletics track after the 2012 Games.

The letter, signed by 16 Olympians and Paralympians, claims it would be "unacceptable for the stadium to lose the track and effectively become an Olympic Stadium with NO Olympic connection or legacy".

Premier League teams West Ham and Tottenham have both submitted plans for the stadium which are being scrutinised by the Olympic Park Legacy Company, the body deciding the future of the £537million venue.

West Ham's joint bid with Newham Council plans to covert the 80,000-seater stadium into a 60,000-capacity arena for football, athletics, concerts and community use.

London rival Tottenham's bid with sport and entertainment giant AEG, in contrast, has no plans to keep a track.

The letter reads: "We are all proud Olympians and Paralympians who have competed under the Union flag and without exception we were all passionate supporters of the bid to bring the world's greatest sporting event to London.

"A home Games in 2012 gives our country a once in a lifetime opportunity to inspire future generations with a love of sport, be they future Olympians or the supporters that play such a crucial role in our success.

"One of the most compelling aspects of our bid back in 2005 was the promise of an athletics legacy in the form of a world class stadium. This promise made the idea of legacy real. It showed that the Games would continue to touch the wider community long after the Olympics and Paralympic spectacular had left town.

"What made the legacy more persuasive was the fact that this wasn't just about the top end of the sport and giving our top athletes a 'home' stadium to be proud of. This was about the community, about making a facility work as hard as possible and be as accessible as possible to a wide range of people from a wide range of sports.

"Here was a stadium that would see young athletes competing for an English Schools title run on the same track as Usain Bolt, where Premiership footballers could play whilst club athletes train. Here was somewhere that could play host to twenty20 cricket one week and a pop concert the next.

"There is no doubt a legacy of bricks and mortar can work. Look to the Velodrome in Manchester, a true legacy of the 2002 Commonwealth Games that is paying dividends every time British cyclists compete on the world stage.

"As Olympians we are all ardent sports fans and that is why we believe the Olympic legacy HAS to be the Olympic Stadium complete with track. It would be unacceptable for the stadium to lose the track and effectively become an Olympic Stadium with NO Olympic connection or legacy.

"We urge the decision makers in this process to ensure the track remains post 2012 and bring to life a sporting promise made to a whole community for generations to come."

The letter is also signed by Steve Backley, Jamie Baulch, Roger Black, Steve Cram, Lynn Davies, Brendan Foster, Tanni Grey Thompson, Katharine Merry, David Moorcroft, Alan Pascoe, Wendy Sly, Ian Stewart and Alan Wells.