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Page last updated at 20:11 GMT, Thursday, 20 January 2011

Athletics boss Diack slams Olympic stadium plans


UK reputation 'dead' without 2012 legacy

The head of world athletics says London will have told a "big lie" to get the 2012 Olympics if the Olympic stadium is converted into a football ground.

West Ham and Tottenham both want to move to the venue after 2012 but under Spurs' plans the track will go.

"They'll have made a big lie during their presentation," International Athletics Association Federation chief Lamine Diack told BBC Sport.

"There will be no credibility... of a great country like Britain."

And Diack, a member of the International Olympic Committee, suggested that if the athletics track was scrapped Britain's chances of hosting future events would be severely compromised.

"[There would be] no way to comeback as far as my generation is concerned," he stated.

"You can consider you are dead. You are finished.


"This nation has a number of heroes in athletics. I could spend an hour, listing one by one all those who've achieved fantastic things in athletics. They are still there, involved. And this country, this city saying that I'm not able to have a stadium of athletics?"

Tottenham and West Ham will make their final submissions to the Olympic Park Legacy Company (OPLC) on Friday.

The OPLC, which can ask either club to provide more details of their proposals, has a board meeting on Friday, 28 January when it is expected to decide on its preferred bidder.

Its recommendation then has to be ratified by two government departments - the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, and the Department of Communities and Local Government - and the London Mayor's office, with a decision expected by the end of March.

Architect's plan of the stadium

West Ham have pledged to retain the running track while Spurs intend to rebuild the stadium without the track.

In an effort to counteract any charge that the Stratford venue would lack the intimacy of football grounds that do not have running tracks, West Ham stated: "There are seats at Wembley stadium (regarded as having great views from every vantage point) which are further away from the pitch than any seat in our proposed stadium."

Labour's former Olympic minister Tessa Jowell has suggested that having a football club as the main tenant of the stadium would not be ideal, though her desire to see the track retained has seen her favour the West Ham bid.

"Newham Council, together with West Ham, commits to keep the athletics track, commits to external community involvement and is apparently commercially viable with partners Essex County Cricket Club and [entertainment provider] Live Nation," she said.

Fans need to understand that the first priority was to keep home where it is, but if it's financially unviable, what do you do?

Former Tottenham chairman Lord Sugar

"Therefore, they meet the five tests that we applied for the legacy use of the stadium, to the commitments we made in the bid book and the heavy commitment to community engagement."

When asked how it would reflect on the bid, and Britain as a whole, if the athletics legacy was not kept at the stadium, Jowell simply said: "Badly.

"I had to pull Britain out of hosting the athletics World Championships in 2005 because we didn't have a suitable stadium and we couldn't afford to build a stadium in time.

"When we set about bidding for the Olympics, at the very heart of that was putting that right and making amends by saying part of our legacy will be a world-class stadium that can host world-class athletics events.

"When we made that commitment in the bid book they were carefully considered commitments that were in the interests of sport in this country.

"They were also persuasive in winning the bid for London 2012 so they can't be taken or set aside lightly."

West Ham's proposal of retaining the running track but reducing the capacity of the stadium from 80,000 to 60,000, which had looked a more legacy-friendly option, came in for heavy criticism on Wednesday.

Both Simon Clegg, the former British Olympic Association chief executive, and Michael Cunnah, Wembley Stadium's former chief executive, believe football and athletics cannot both be held successfully in the same stadium.

"It is quite obvious that the only viable model for the stadium is to have a football club as an anchor tenant, but football fans in this country want to be as close to the action as possible," said Clegg.

"I articulated this to Sebastian Coe a couple of years ago but the issue has become even more acute for me since I have been involved in a club.

Jowell backs West Ham Olympic stadium bid

"The entire bid was based on the principle of sustainable legacy and not creating white elephants and only 17 months out from the Games we have still not resolved the thorny issue of future of the stadium.

"It's madness to suggest we should keep a track just on the basis we may get an athletics world championships or European championships say once every 15 -20 years."

Former Tottenham chairman Lord Sugar told BBC Five Live that he understood why the issue of a possible move was hard for some fans to face up to, but they needed to think about the long-term security of the club.

"I can understand their hesitance, we're great traditionalists but I think what we have to consider is that we have to do the right thing for the future of the football club, to go to the next level," he said.

"To try and do that in Harringey is starting to look financially prohibitive.

"We don't have planning consent [to redevelop White Hart Lane], we have it with lots of caveats, and when you add up the cost of trying to comply with all of them, you see an unviable financial proposition.

"It's not a simple exercise. Fans need to understand that the first priority was to keep home where it is, but if it's financially unviable, what do you do?".

Former BOA boss Clegg prefers Tottenham's bid, but believes that rather than offering to redevelop the National Sports Centre at Crystal Palace as part of their plan for moving into the Olympic Stadium, Spurs should be focused on providing a sustainable athletics legacy in east London.

A group of former British Olympians, including double gold medallists Dame Kelly Holmes and Daley Thompson, are against the north London club's proposal to get rid of the track, writing in an open letter: "We urge the decision makers to ensure the track remains post 2012."

UK Athletics head coach Charles van Commenee also warned: "If London doesn't have a stadium where we can organise major championships in athletics, that puts you in a category in Europe that I can't even think of."

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see also
Council chief slams Spurs plans
21 Jan 11 |  London 2012
40m loan to West Ham is approved
20 Jan 11 |  London
West Ham Olympic loan 'risks abuse'
21 Jan 11 |  London
Spurs & West Ham fans in the dark
20 Jan 11 |  London 2012
Palace unveil new stadium plans
20 Jan 11 |  Crystal Palace
'We can't renege on 2012 promise'
19 Jan 11 |  2012
2012 stadium plans 'problematic'
18 Jan 11 |  London
Olympic stadium plans criticised
19 Jan 11 |  London 2012
Spurs plan could work - Campbell
18 Jan 11 |  London 2012
Spurs' stadium plan 'appalling'
18 Jan 11 |  London 2012
Spurs 'to dismantle 2012 stadium'
12 Jan 11 |  London
Gold fears 2012 'white elephant'
23 Mar 10 |  West Ham
Olympic legacy plans 'unclear'
16 Feb 10 |  London

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