London Olympic Stadium to be new base for athletes

LONDON Tue Jul 23, 2013 12:36pm BST

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LONDON (Reuters) - The London Olympic Stadium, centrepiece of last year's Games, will serve as a new national base for athletics as well as home to soccer club West Ham United, officials said on Tuesday.

Britain will hold London Diamond League meetings at the stadium during its summer, while a new track will be built on the site to offer all-year-round facilities for local athletes and clubs. The stadium will host the world athletics championships in 2017.

"Today's agreement is a great result for athletics," said UK Athletics Chief Executive Niels de Vos.

"We've seen how there is a huge public appetite for seeing athletics on the biggest stage."

Olympic sprint champion Usain Bolt is due to compete at the weekend when the sell-out stadium hosts the Anniversary Games - the first major sports event at the venue since the close of the Paralympics last September.

A year on from the Games, British officials and politicians are keen to talk up the lasting impact on the country of staging the Olympics.

The West Ham move ensures the stadium will remain part of London's sporting scene but critics had questioned why a club from the wealthy Premier League was paying only an initial 15 million pounds ($23 million) to use a facility that will have cost more than 500 million.

A regular series of high-profile athletics events will help to redress the sporting balance. The stadium will also stage matches in the 2015 rugby World Cup.

UK Athletics has signed a 50-year agreement to use the stadium in east London from 2016 when work to convert it for use for soccer will be complete. It applies in late June and July when there are no Premier League matches.

Diamond League meetings have previously been staged at the smaller and older Crystal Palace venue in south London.

(Writing by Keith Weir, Editing by Clare Fallon)

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