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Friday, 16 August, 2002, 16:07 GMT 17:07 UK
No track for golden athletes
The day after the closing ceremony the demolition teams move in and ripped up the track
The running track's farewell party was spectacular
As we reflect on a successful Commonwealth games, G Two's Phil Jones asks why Britain has no major venue for athletics.

As the Commonwealth games drew to a close, questions began to be asked about the future of the City of Manchester stadium.

Everyone knew that the plan was to hand the ground over to Manchester City football club, who would remove the track and install extra seats in preparation for their arrival in 2003.

It is a crying shame that the City of Manchester stadium is going to Man City
Jonathan Edwards
But despite the success of the games, and the stadium, there were still dissenting voices - in particular that of Commonwealth triple-jump champion Jonathan Edwards.

"It's a real disgrace that Great Britain as a country - with all it's history and success in athletics, doesn't have a stadium capable of hosting a World Championships," he says.

"It is a crying shame that the City of Manchester stadium is going to Man City.

"So much of the lottery and tax-payer's money is not going to be used for the general public, but for a relatively small group of (Manchester City) fans.

The debate over whether football and athletics can combine has run for years - football's view being that a track around the field of play detracts from the atmosphere.

Manchester City fans celebrate promotion to the Premiership
Edwards is unhappy, but these Man City fans are delighted
Certainly the Olympiastadion in Munich, host of the 2002 European Athletics championships and home to Bayern Munich FC proves that it can work - but Munich is an exception to the rule.

Sydney's running track was torn up after the 2000 Olympics, while Atlanta, scene of Michael Johnson's record 400m run in the 1996 Olympic games, suffered the same fate.

But Johnson disagrees with Edwards' view, blaming the athletics community rather than football.

"Atlanta was probably the spot of my most memorable moment in my career but unfortunately it's a baseball stadium now," he says.

"It's sad but you know it's reality - it's where our sport is.


"We blame whoever built the stadium or we blame the government or - but we shouldn't.

"We have to blame ourselves or our sport - athletics for not raising itself to a level where it can sustain a stadium like that.

"Unless the people who are building these stadiums are convinced that this is a good thing for them then it's not going to happen.

"We can't go around with our hands out looking for charity - that's not the world we live in - unfortunately."

With the track at Manchester already removed, UK athletics are looking at viable alternatives.

One of the twin towers at a desolate Wembley
Wembley: could it host an Olympic games?
Crystal Palace athletics track is likely to be upgraded in the near future, while any new development at Wembley will, according to Sport England's David Moffat, be capable of staging athletics, possibly on a removable track.

If Japan can have grounds that host baseball and football, and Cardiff's Millennium stadium can stage rugby, pop concerts and speedway, couldn't an athletics track be squeezed into a national stadium?

UK Athletics' David Moorcroft is one voice pushing for a multi-purpose sporting arena.

"You'd like to think with the new innovations in stadiums that there is a way of marrying sports together in a national stadium," Moorcroft says.

"It' something clearly we need to be part of the discussions on."

Watch Phil Jones' full investigation on Grandstand's G Two, this Sunday at 1300BST.

Your opinions on the issue:

I live in Manchester and I feel it's a big shame that the running track has gone for a football team instead of big athletic events. Manchester proved they could hold one of the best athletic events ever, they could have left the running track in and had the stadium as a football ground as well.
Phil Whittaker, England

We don't have a decent world class athletics stadium in Britain! and with a population of near on 60 million, it's a disgrace. It doesn't stop there though, how many Olympic standard swimming pools do we have? Exactly - too few.

Sport brings people together (and not just football, although there's nothing wrong with football). Sport focuses the body, mind and soul, strengthening social cohesion where all other approaches fail to deliver.
John de Oliveira, England

Football is taking over the world of sport
Gagan, London
As an athlete myself, I understand the need for a permanent stadium for the sport in England. However I do think that connecting the English football stadium with the athletics stadium would ruin the atmosphere that is so special at England matches
Chris, England

Why Man City couldn't follow the French idea of having TEMPORARY seating across the track, and when an athletics meet is to be hosted they can remove the seating. That way Man City can still get at least 50,000 people into the stadium without pullimg up one of the few decent tracks left in the country outside London.
Rob, England

I don't believe they are going to give the stadium to a football club. Football is taking over the world of sport and just because football is more known then athletics it doesn't mean they can take our few facilities away.

Not everyone wants to watch football. Although people like me who love athletics don't publicise it as much as football, athletics is slowly becoming bigger and more people are inspired by the great talent we have and is yet to come.
Gagan, London

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05 Aug 02 | Sports Talk
04 Aug 02 | Features
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