Can London win in Monte Carlo and trump Qatar's big cash pitch?

UK Athletics chief shrugs off oil-rich nation's last-ditch attempt to sway IAAF ahead of Friday's vote to determine host of the 2017 World Championships

Simon Turnbull
Wednesday 09 November 2011 01:00
There is a 99-year guarantee for athletics at the stadium
There is a 99-year guarantee for athletics at the stadium

Ed Warner, the chairman of UK Athletics, yesterday considered the merits of the domestic governing body's bid to bring the 2017 World Athletics Championships to London and concluded: "Our stars are aligned at the moment." At least the stars of the athletics world are guaranteed a track on which to perform if London gets the nod ahead of Doha at a council meeting of the International Association of Athletics Federations in Monaco on Friday afternoon.

The announcement yesterday that UK Athletics had been granted a 99-year lease to stage track and field at the Olympic Stadium brought to an end any lingering uncertainty about the future of track and field in the 2012 arena and about London actually having a venue capable of staging the biennial global event for the first time.

The 2005 World Championships should have been in London, of course, but were switched to Helsinki when the proposed cost of a purpose-built stadium at Picketts Lock, near Enfield, became too high. The English capital was also in the running for the 2015 championships until uncertainty about the Olympic Stadium forced UK Athletics to drop out of contention with Beijing.

This time London has a bid based on solid foundations, and not just in the literal sense. It remains to be seen, however, whether the claims of the English capital can trump those of the Qatar's principal city when the chips are down in Monte Carlo.

It emerged yesterday that Doha is hoping to sway the 27 members of the IAAF council with an offer to pay the entire bill for prize money, some £5m. Warner remains unruffled, despite Qatar's vast petroleum riches having helped to attract the 2022 football World Cup and made Doha a candidate city for the 2020 Olympic Games.

"I wouldn't say it's a major concern but it's an argument we have to counter," Warner said . "We've got a very long-term appealing commercial proposition for the IAAF which is based around the value of sponsorship income and broadcast income of this championships being in western Europe in 2017.

"We've spoken to a number of sponsors and I would say that the prize fund proposition is much more than outweighed by incremental income that will float through the IAAF's coffers if this event comes to western Europe in 2017. So we'll be making a bird in the hand versus probably three or four in the bush argument about the long-term health of the sport – viewing figures, broadcast income, the interest from sponsors.

"To my mind, the paying of the prize money is a relatively modest sum in the context of the bigger prize for the IAAF and for our sport."

Warner insists he is similarly undaunted by the possible effects of reports repeated in the British press last weekend, first made in a BBC Panorama programme in November last year, that Lamine Diack, the IAAF president, is being investigated by the International Olympic Committee's ethics committee because of alleged illicit payments made to him by a Swiss marketing company. It was the same Panorama programme that featured allegations about members of Fifa – on the eve of England's defeat to Russia in the contest to host the 2018 World Cup.

"It's not a concern to me at all," Warner said. "One of the things I've realised in recent weeks is there's a huge industry of people who make it their job to see conspiracies behind every door. I've taken a policy decision that we'll go front foot forwards, through the front door, and have direct dialogue with people and [persuade them of] the merits of our bid.

"What we've found with President Diack is he's always shrewd. He's been a fantastic champion of the Olympic Stadium and the retention of the track in the legacy. He's been very open with us about what he's looking for in the World Championships bid.

"Every indication to me is that this whole process has been fair, open, honest, straightforward and will be decided on its merits on Friday."

The London delegation will be led by Lord Coe, a vice-president of the IAAF, who knows a thing or two about the delivery of a major sporting event. The party also includes Jodie Williams, the world junior 100m champion, who intends to deliver a "passionate" speech to the IAAF council.

It might not be a Monte Carlo or bust mission. There is talk that the IAAF would consider offering the losing candidate the option of staging the 2019 championships. That, however, would be no automatic silver lining for London. "I'm in no position to accept an offer of the 2019 championships," Warner said. "The reason is we have Government underwriting a financial contribution. If you move to 2019 you go to other funding cycles. I would have to go back to stakeholders and there's absolutely no guarantee that it could be done."

London versus Doha: Pros and cons


Venue: Olympic Stadium


Demand for Olympic tickets suggests attendances will be high.

European venue would be preferred by TV and sponsors.


Botched bids for 2005 and 2015 championships.

Does not have £5m for prize money.


Venue: Khalifa Stadium


Would be first World Championships in the Middle East.

£5m prize money offer.


Would have to move to September because of the summer heat.

Marathon and race walks would have to start at midnight.

West Ham note 99-year athletic guarantee

West Ham United will have to step aside for major athletics events in summer months if they want to become tenants of the Olympic Stadium.

Following the collapse of the deal between West Ham and Newham Council last month, amid a welter of legal challenges, it was announced yesterday that the future of the Stratford arena will include the guaranteed accommodation of top-class athletics for the life of the stadium.

The news comes before the decision by the council of the International Association of Athletics Federations in Monaco on Friday about whether to award the 2017 World Athletics Championships to the Khalifa Stadium in Doha or to the London Olympic Stadium.

Ed Warner, chairman of UK Athletics, said: "Athletics will be guaranteed in the stadium for 99 years, or at least as long as the stadium is serviceable. We've got clauses in our tenancy agreement that give us all the protection we need.

"Athletics will have primacy in the summer months and the stadium will have track and field at its heart. We also have a right to host a major competition every few years provided we give the landlord two years' notice, and any football club will have to arrange to play away from home during those competitions."

Simon Turnbull

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