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Sunday, 25 November, 2001, 22:15 GMT
Jowell defends Picketts Lock 'fiasco'
An impression of the Picketts Lock athletic stadium
Picketts Lock was to be built in north London
The government has again defended its handling of the Wembley Stadium redevelopment and failed athletics project at Picketts Lock in north-east London.

Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell told the BBC that the government had to ensure Britain was getting value for money when it planned big sporting events.

The UK bid for the 2005 World Athletics Championships collapsed after it emerged the new Wembley Stadium would only host football and the government refused to bankroll Picketts Lock.

The government's handling of the "fiasco" was attacked as "sorry and convoluted" in a report published by the Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport on Tuesday.

'Confusion and uncertainty'

Ms Jowell, whose predecessor Chris Smith was singled out for particular criticism in the report, said: "I hope that we can draw a line under the confusion and uncertainty about these big projects.


I hope that we can draw a line under the confusion and uncertainty about these big projects

Tessa Jowell
Culture Secretary
"We proceed on the basis that the people of this country benefit, that they are affordable, deliverable, on time.

"Those are the tests that have to be applied."

After the report was published Ms Jowell welcomed its "thoughtful" comments, but said the cancellation of Picketts Lock was still seen as the right decision.

It was scrapped as costs spiralled past the 100m mark.

Criticism

The select committee described Chris Smith's decision to remove an athletics track from the Wembley Stadium redevelopment as "beyond his proper responsibilities".

The choice of Picketts Lock as the venue for a new athletics complex was also attacked, as was the government's sudden shift in its support for the project from "confidence to alarm".

After deciding not to support the north-east London development the government and UK athletics chiefs asked the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) to transfer the games to Sheffield.

Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell
Tessa Jowell decided not to bankroll Picketts Lock
The request was immediately refused.

A decision on where to build the new national football stadium is still to be made, with a rival bid from the Midlands still an option.

The report concluded by warning the government to consider "whether there is a last opportunity to return to a national stadium at Wembley for football, rugby and major athletics events".

It warned the alternative would be "no venue for athletics in London capable of staging the World Championships or the Olympics, and therefore little prospect of attracting these events in the foreseeable future".

See also:

21 Nov 01 | UK Politics
Smith denounces Wembley criticism
21 Nov 01 | Football
FA 'to rebuild Wembley'
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