'Farce' in stadium re-opening delay

  • Last Updated: November 14 2012, 16:24 GMT

The delay in re-opening of the Olympic Stadium has been branded "a farce" by UK Athletics chairman Ed Warner.

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The London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) confirmed last week that the stadium will not re-open until 2015 at the earliest and possibly the summer of 2016 - which would be two years later than expected.

UK Athletics had planned events such as Diamond League meetings, trials and school competitions from 2014 and Warner admitted he had been stunned to learn of the delay last week.

He is not worried however about any threat to the 2017 world championships which is to be held in the stadium in Stratford, east London.

Warner said: "My biggest concern is that we have some major events planned for that stadium and we thought they were going to be from the summer of 2014 onwards.

"All of the legacy use was scheduled to start in two years' time and now it might be four years' time which strikes me as ludicrous and to be a paralysis of decision-making which I hope the mayor [Boris Johnson] is going to cut through.

"I wouldn't say this is a Whitehall farce but this is fast becoming a Stratford farce.

"We want to lock into the legacy of the Games while people still remember the Mobot, Greg Rutherford, Jonnie Peacock and David Weir.

"Let's have a bit of imagination here and let's have a decision - we want one, West Ham want one and we all want it open as soon as possible."

A decision is expected by December 5 and West Ham's bid remains the favourite - it includes retaining a running track although the club want the stadium to be converted to have retractable seating over the track, but not at their expense.

Sports minister Hugh Robertson said the issue was "closing the financial gap" because West Ham do not want to pay for the retractable seating which could push the cost up to £200million.

Robertson said: "We know the 2017 world championships will be fine because that is a contractual commitment we have made. The question is how quickly can this be done.

"There is a commercial negotiation going on with West Ham and it's a question of how quickly the Mayor and the Legacy Company can close the gap.

"There is a package on the table which includes the conversion costs that were built into the budget and a contribution from the local authority and some money that West Ham might put into it, and then there is the bill for all the things they would ideally want to do to have what they would see as a modern stadium."

Dennis Hone, chief executive of the LLDC, told the London Assembly last week a 2014 reopening is "completely out, it would be August 2015 at the absolute earliest and possibly August 2016."

Mayor of London Boris Johnson released a statement in response to Warner's comments.

In it he reiterated that ensuring the stadium was a multi-use venue in the long-term was a greater priority than the needs of athletic alone.

"It's a great shame that there are those who appear to have little or no interest in a multi-use solution to the stadium incorporating football and a range of other sports," he said.

"This isn't and can't solely be about athletics. The legacy of 2012 isn't just about tomorrow, it's about jobs, growth and regeneration across east London and beyond, for generations to come.

"That means delivering a stadium that preferably is multi-purpose, at the heart of the community, and able to host concerts and big set piece events alongside world-class sport.

"That's a vision for all not for the few, and it's a vision I'm determined to deliver."

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