Olympics 2008 Features
London's post-Olympic stadium use debate heats up (News Feature)
By John Bagratuni Jan 21, 2011, 9:40 GMT
Berlin - London Olympic organizers are under fire from athletics supremo Lamine Diack and sprint star Usain Bolt has also urged them to maintain the Olympic stadium running track after the 2012 Games.
The IAAF president Diack bluntly told the BBC that Britain's reputation in the sport would be 'dead' if the 80,000-seat arena is turned into a football stadium because organizers then lied to the International Olympic Committee.
The statements came ahead of final submissions Friday by Premier League clubs Tottenham Hotspur and West Ham United who are bidding to take over the facility after the Games.
While West Ham would keep the running track, while Spurs would tear down the 850-million dollar venue and build a pure football ground there instead.
The London 2012 bid team told the IOC at the final presentation that the stadium - to host the opening and closing ceremony as well as the athletics events - would be reduced to a 25,000-arena after the Games but the running track kept as part of the pledged legacy.
But with the winner possibly announced next week by the responsible Olympic legacy company, the tensions are rising considerably, even though its decision requires ratification by the government and the London mayor.
'They'll have made a big lie during their presentation,' Diack told the BBC. 'There will be no credibility ... of a great country like Britain.'
Diack also said that Britain would have no chance of hosting a major athletics event in the foreseeable future if the track is torn out in the Olympic stadium. The British athletics body is pondering a bid for the 2017 worlds.
'(There would be) no way to comeback as far as my generation is concerned. You can consider you are dead. You are finished,' he said.
Diack also issued a long statement on the IAAF website, saying that 'to now demolish the Olympic stadium ... seems to me an outrageous proposition' and that 'destroying the track would be totally unacceptable.'
Diack reminded Britain of its proud athletics heritage and history and Jamaican sprint superstar Usain Bolt also urged those in charge to keep the track.
'London needs to keep the track in the Olympic Stadium after 2012. It would be good to run there after,' tweeted Bolt, a world record holder, world and Olympic champion in the 100m, 200m and 4x100m, last week.
West Ham said they would keep the running track in what would be 60,000-seat multi-purpose arena. But there are doubts whether they could fill such a big stadium, especially as they face relegation currently ranked last in the Premiership.
Spurs, for their part, want to throw out the running track in their new stadium on the site.
For compensation, they have offered to renovate the Crystal Palace complex which has hosted many athletics events in the past. However, that site may be of interest for second division club Crystal Palace as well.
Many argue that football generates far more revenue than athletics which has not even landed a big post-Olympic event, and that football clubs in Britain and elsewhere are doing away with running tracks in their venues.
'London made a promise it could not keep,' said the Daily Telegraph on Friday.
The Sun, meanwhile, carried a column from Harry Redknapp, a former West Ham player and manager who is now in charge at Spurs, with the headline: 'If West Ham got Olympic Stadium we'll all need binolulars.'
'Try to mix football and athletics and you end up with a great big bowl of nothing,' Redknapp said.
However, Diack has not fully given up hope that the mix can be achieved as he said in the IAAF statement: 'Let us keep London9s promise alive and leave an athletics legacy AT the venue with a top football club as a valued partner.'
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