London 2012 - Athletics chief issues stadium warning
The governing body for British athletics has admitted that future events are unlikely to come close to filling London’s 2012 Olympic stadium.
The 60,000-seat venue is expected to become the home of British athletics after the Olympic Games, but the chairman of UK Athletics, Ed Warner, fears that the only event capable of attracting crowds in excess of ‘the high single-thousands’ is the London Diamond League Grand Prix – which currently hosts just 17,000 fans at Crystal Palace.
West Ham United – whose bid to occupy the East London stadium is awaiting ratification by the Government and London mayor Boris Johnson – have committed to retaining the stadium’s running track, as well as agreeing to host 20 days of ‘top-class’ athletics each year.
"'Top-class' is not a technical term in athletics as 'first-class' is in cricket," Warner said. "By 'top-class' we mean the two days of the Diamond League, down to championships for each major age group. Some will attract a significant paying public, others a smaller paying public. We will also be able to bid for major European and world championships."
Other events expected to be held at the £496m stadium range from the UK Championships – which currently attracts less than 8,000 spectators – down to the south of England junior and senior championships, and Essex Beagles' British Athletics League meets, which will draw nominal crowds.
"We have never argued that athletics makes the stadium commercially viable,” Warner insisted. “But we want our athletes to aspire to run on the track in a facility of such quality, and the warm-up track underneath is also important. West Ham made the call that they can make the stadium work financially, and we were able to piggy-back on that."
West Ham’s main rivals for the stadium’s 250-year lease, Tottenham Hotspur, argued that a redevelopment of the Crystal Palace National Sports centre would provide a more viable legacy for British athletics after the 2012 Games, but Warner remains insistent that UK Athletics will hold the Hammers to their promise to keep the track for the foreseeable future.
"We have a commitment to an IAAF category one facility, to be maintained in the stadium, for the duration of the lease," he added.