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Thursday, 1 August, 2002, 13:36 GMT 14:36 UK

Champions condemn track decision

English gold medal winners have joined the chorus of voices criticising the decision to rip up the athletics track at the City of Manchester Stadium after the Commonwealth Games.

Triple jumper Jonathan Edwards and 5,000m champion Paula Radcliffe were first to voice their dismay earlier in the week, with Edwards describing the decision to rip out the track as "a disgrace".

And they were supported by more of England's champions after the host nation's gold rush on the final day of the athletics on Wednesday.

"It is very sad that they are not going to keep the track," said Birchfield's Ashia Hansen, who broke her Games record three times on her way to retaining her triple jump crown.

"If you ask each and every one of the athletes they will say the same thing."

Chris Rawlinson followed up his gold in the 400m hurdles by running a leg in England's thrilling 4x400m relay victory.

"I don't get or understand the mentality of ripping up the track," he said.

"I bet the people of Manchester would support athletics. Why can't we have a track and pitch like they have in Munich and Rome?"

"The best possible way forward was to have Manchester City Football Club as a long-term tenant"
Manchester City Council

After collecting gold in the 4x100m relay Coventry's Marlon Devonish said: "I am gutted they are ripping up the track.

"The people here have seen us perform so well and they would turn out in future."

The track will now be taken apart, with half of it being used for the World Indoor Championships at the National Indoor Arena in Birmingham in March 2003.

The venue will be reconfigured as a football stadium and will have Manchester City as tenants from the start of the 2003/2004 stadium.

Manchester City Council say the plan was the best on offer to the city and the only way the stadium would be financially viable.

"It was absolutely essential for Manchester to have a long-term robust use for our new stadium," said a spokesperson for the council.

"The best possible way forward was to have Manchester City Football Club as a long-term tenant.

"The agreement between the city council and MCFC was independently scrutinised and met all the criteria for Lottery funding."

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