Jowell: Olympic stadium athletics legacy must be met

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Former Olympics minister Tessa Jowell insists the Olympic Stadium in east London must continue to be an athletics venue after the 2012 Games in order to fulfil promises made to the International Olympic Committee during the bidding process.

Rival London clubs West Ham and Tottenham are bidding to move to the site, but while the Hammers have pledged to retain the athletics track at the stadium, Spurs intend to rebuild the stadium without a track while revamping the Crystal Palace athletics venue.

If Spurs are successful then UK Athletics would not be able to bid to stage the 2017 World Championships in London, and Jowell warned that would be unacceptable in the light of the Picketts Lock fiasco which forced plans to host the 2005 World Championships to be abandoned.

Jowell, quoted in the Daily Telegraph, said: "We made a promise about the athletics legacy London would offer when we bid for the 2012 Games, and we did not make it simply to see it broken a few years later.

"We made that promise against the background of the 2005 World Championships, which we had to pull out of because we could not provide a suitable stadium (at Picketts Lock) to host it.

"That decision caused a great deal of damage, but the fact that it was substantially repaired was credit to the bid, and tells you a great deal about the importance of the promise of an athletics legacy that we made.

"I think it is a great pity that the only option is a football club but it is more important that the stadium ends up with the capacity for long-term use by the communities of east London."

The Olympic Park Legacy Company has a board meeting on Friday, January 28 when a decision on their preferred bidder could be made.

If they do make a decision at that meeting, their recommendation then has to go to be ratified by two Government departments - the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, and the Department of Communities and Local Government - and the London mayor's office.

Jowell reiterated her comments when addressing current sports minister Hugh Robertson in the House of Commons today.

She said: "I am sure we all agree that the economic legacy of the Olympic Park will be in part secured by a long-term tenant being identified for the Olympic stadium.

"Will you agree with me that when we bid to host the Games, the bid book was clear, that the legacy for the Olympic stadium would have athletics at its core, along with associated multi-sport availability for the local community?

"There are two contenders - two football clubs, Tottenham and West Ham. Will you agree with me that it is only the joint bid from Newham Council and West Ham football club that fulfils the commitment we made at the time we won the Games?"