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Last Updated: Tuesday, 11 September 2007, 22:46 GMT 23:46 UK
Security monitored over US visit
By Andrew Dawkins
BBC News, Birmingham

Officials in Birmingham are assessing security issues as they claim it is "more than 95% certain" that a high-profile American sports team will descend on Birmingham for the 2012 Olympics.

The US track and field athletics team could be basing itself in the city during the extravaganza in London.

Tyson Gay
Tyson Gay is the world 100m and 200m champion

And it is now being seen as a "done deal" from the viewpoint of Birmingham City Council.

But its head of sport, Brian Stocks, admitted that security factors could still be a stumbling block.

"There may be a situation where the price is too risky or too expensive for us to consider," he said.

"But at this moment in time the general viewpoint is that this is worth doing, that the level of security we can put in place... is containable. It's manageable.

Waste of money?

"Who knows what might happen in the world in the next five years? You have to take those decisions as and when. But we are very confident. The Americans come into this city all the time for athletics."

He added the council was talking to the Home Office and other agencies on the issue.

Alexander Stadium
Athletes at the Alexander Stadium could benefit in the long term

Leading officials in Birmingham believe hosting major events such as the European Indoor Athletics Championships underlines the city's ability to welcome the big names.

Business would be boosted as 200 athletes and support staff, such as recent 100m and 200m World Champion Tyson Gay, could jet into the city - and the visit could be good publicity with the media spotlight on Birmingham.

The council believes the US team would feel comfortable walking down the streets in multi-cultural Birmingham - "away from the circus" in London.

But what about those who think any council contribution is a waste of money?

'Scattergun approach'

Mr Stocks said: "Most cities work on a principle that for every pound you put in, you're looking for about 10 back.

"But I've got to say that that's the sort of maximum that any city bidding for something like this would really be prepared to do unless they want to be completely suicidal."

It is hoped the next generation of Midlands stars would benefit from the visit.

Tom McCook
Birchfield's Tom McCook thinks there could be more investment

There are plans to have athletes from the Birchfield Harriers club testing themselves against the Americans and members of the US team could visit schools.

Facilities may also be improved - and that would act as a legacy of one of the Olympics' most successful teams visiting Birmingham.

Birchfield's president, Tom McCook, said: "The (Alexander) Stadium is 30 years old now. It's a very good stadium, but it could do with some more investment.

"I'm sure there'll be one or two areas that they will be saying, 'we think that it would be helpful to us if there was a little bit of money spent in upgrading the stadium'."

'Down the line'

As for the venues, no decisions have been made about which would be used.

The city is also proposing other facilities in the hope of attracting other teams - plans for a new swimming pool is one idea which has been discussed.

Mr Stocks said: "We've actually increased the height of the martial arts and gymnastics centre (currently being built) and increased the width, so it's now to full international standard.

"Now we wouldn't do that if we didn't think we were a long way down the line of securing some Olympic team to come.

"What we don't want to do is to scattergun the approach, have lots of teams here and then find that we're frustrating a lot of them, because we haven't thought about it clearly (by) trying to take on too many."

As for the Americans, they are now at the stage of completing legal agreements with Birmingham, according to the council's sporting chief.

He said they had also talked about the possibility of also coming in 2009 on the way to the World Championships in Berlin.

Brian Stocks is viewing it as a 'done deal'

Tom McCook says the Americans would feel welcome

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