Worlds vote "vindicates" London stadium decision
LONDON (Reuters) - The decision to award London the 2017 world athletics championships goes a long way to vindicating the city's decision to demand the track remained in the stadium after hosting the 2012 Olympics, the UK's Sports minister said.
Last month, the government took the 486 million pound stadium in east London into public ownership when it pulled a deal to award soccer club West Ham United the right to move in after next year's Games.
West Ham had said they would keep the athletics track but the other soccer club shortlisted to become anchor tenant, Tottenham Hotspur, had said they wanted to tear it up because tracks often ruin the crowd atmosphere at football matches.
Spurs took the case to court, and a long and protracted legal challenge threatened to engulf London's 2017 bid and its Olympic promise of an athletics legacy.
"The decision we took a couple of weeks ago was quite a brave one in many ways," Hugh Robertson told Reuters in a telephone interview from Monaco, where London beat Doha on Friday in the IAAF vote to host the worlds.
"The decision today is part of the vindication for doing that."
The search for a tenant will resume shortly and the IAAF's decision not only enhances London's sporting reputation, and justified the need for a track, but it also appears to have made the decision on the future of the stadium more straight forward.
A football club is still favourite to move in under a mixed-use criteria, because it is one of the few sports that could help pay its way in a 60-000-seater stadium. West Ham now again look likely victors as they were happy keeping the track.
"The next part of this is to get a viable tenant in alongside athletics, and then this is going to look a very good decision indeed," Robertson said, adding he was confident of doing so.
"Today is half vindication, the other half will be getting a tenant in."
Robertson said London's bid was successful because it delivered not only on the commercial and broadcasting side but also gave a "vision for athletics."
The decision will help London fulfil its promise to deliver an athletics legacy which it made when successfully bidding for the 2012 Olympics.
"The game changer for London has been that the Olympics has proved that we deliver what we promise, and that's an incredibly powerful message to any international federation," he said.
"That's a sort of international currency that no amount of money can buy.
"We have now delivered the stadium in 2011 for 2012 and now there was a sort of offer back to the athletics community that you helped us frame this stadium and the legacy commitment, now bring us your games to help fill it.
"I think the emotion, the appeal, that sense of partnership that we have created with the IAAF helped us enormously this time around."
If a soccer club moves in they will have to play their first two games of the 2017-18 soccer season away from home to avoid a clash with the athletics championships, Robertson added.
"Now, of course, should a football club win the bidding process when they sign the lease agreement that will now have the 2017 world athletics championship written into the lease," Robertson said.
The track could not be removed during the 99-year-lease.
"Detailed planning for all of this can start now, and the great thing is we are in a much stronger position now because we have the certainty of knowing we have this in 2017."
(Editing by Mark Meadows)
- Tweet this
- Share this
- Digg this