SPORTS POLITICS: Wembley plans a blow to Olympics

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The Independent Online
THE BRITISH Olympic Association has reacted angrily to news that Wembley will officially submit its planning application for the new national stadium on Monday, with a capacity of only 90,000. There had been speculation that it would be increased to 100,000 to improve London's chances of staging an Olympic Games in the new Millennium.

Wembley has not ruled out the possibility of an extension later, but it maintains that the cost of an extra 10,000 seats on the top tier would be as high as pounds 50m. Sources say it will be difficult to raise that sort of money when there is no guarantee of staging either the 2006 World Cup or the 2012 Olympics.

The BOA had been expecting the application, to Brent Council, to be held back until an independent study commissioned by Kate Hoey, the Minister for Sport, had been completed. That is not expected for another week.

"This puts us in a difficult position," said the BOA's chief executive, Simon Clegg. "I know the Minister is going to be considering the study very carefully and doesn't think we should be compromising any future bid. What's important is that if we aspire to bring the world's greatest sporting event back to this country, we have to be prepared to invest money now to enhance any bid."

Wembley hopes planning permission will be granted next March and that demolition will begin in September with the new stadium re-opening for the FA Cup final in May 2003.