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The BBC's Neil Bennett
"Their plan is to transform a football ground into an athletics arena"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 15 December, 1999, 11:45 GMT
Boost for Wembley scheme

Wembley Redesign: How the new Wembley may look


Wembley developers are waiting to find out if they have satisfied government concerns over the 475m plans to rebuild the stadium.

Culture Secretary Chris Smith ordered a review earlier this month after a report by architects Ellerbe Becket (EB) said the new design would not be suitable for athletics events.

Developers Wembley National Stadium Ltd (WSNL) received a boost on Tuesday when British athletics' ruling body said it was satisfied that the venue could be adapted to stage the Olympics.

Athletics bosses also want the stadium to host the 2005 world championships.


Dave Moorcroft David Moorcroft: Backs design
In a joint statement with WNSL, UK Athletics' chief executive David Moorcroft said: "We are confident that WNSL has refuted all the points made by the EB report and are as convinced as ever that the new Wembley Stadium will provide a great home for the flagship athletics events."



The deadline Mr Smith gave developers expires on Wednesday. But officials at the Department of Culture, Media and Sport are understood to remain privately concerned about the design.

Chris Palmer of WNSL said the team had come up with a "fantastic stadium".

"We've always felt we've been designing a fantastic stadium for athletics and we've been working fairly closely with UK Athletics to do just that," he said.

Financial headache

Crucially, it was the British Olympic Association (BOA) which expressed doubts about the new 90,000-seater stadium's suitability as a future Olympic venue. It is yet to give its assent to WSNL.

The scheme is sure to lose its 120m National Lottery grant if government officials are not convinced it will provide an Olympic class venue.



The hi-tech London arena, the centrepiece of England's bid to host the 2006 World Cup, was due to replace the current Wembley stadium, with its famous twin towers, in 2003.



The present design cannot readily provide the central venue for an Olympic Games bid for London
Chris Smith
That would leave backers with a major financial headache just months before the 2006 World Cup venue is selected.

Lord Foster's controversial design does not include a permanent running track.

Instead, a concrete platform would be placed over the football and rugby pitch, cutting capacity by around 10,000, to provide the main venue if Britain attracted the games.

However, architects Ellerbe Becket had warned that sight lines might not meet Olympic standards, the roof covered only parts of a running track and there was poor access for athletes.

Decision by Christmas

On 1 December Mr Smith gave WNSL 14 days to amend the plans.

WSNL's amended plans were sent to the Culture Department last Tuesday, well ahead the deadline, but Ellerbe Becket said on Friday key concerns remained.

These are believed to include the fact that the concrete platform could not be stored for future events and the cost of proposals to build a warm-up track next to the stadium.

A Department of Culture spokesman said a final decision was expected before Christmas.

Late bid

Officials are thought to be considering alternative Olympic venues, including Crystal Palace and Twickenham.

A spokesman for the Rugby Football Union, owners of Twickenham, said: "At present this is complete speculation. Obviously we talk to other organisations, but at present we have no such plans."

On Tuesday another consortium of leading constructors submitted an audacious late bid to replace Wembley as the site of the new national stadium.

London International Stadium said it planned to build a 150,000 capacity stadium in Hillingdon, west London.

The Hillingdon stadium would include retractable seats to make it suitable for both football and athletics and also a sliding roof.

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See also:
05 Dec 99 |  Football
Wembley redesign call dismissed
02 Dec 99 |  Sport
Politics blocks Wembley's way
02 Dec 99 |  Football
Wembley defends stadium plans
01 Dec 99 |  Sport
Welcome for Wembley rethink
01 Dec 99 |  Football
Wembley: Back to the drawing board
01 Dec 99 |  UK
New Wembley 'not fit for Olympics'
14 Dec 99 |  Sport
Wembley faces rival bid

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