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Money talks in heated 2012 venues squabble

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Adrian Warner | 11:46 UK time, Friday, 18 September 2009

When I broke the story last autumn about plans to scrap a temporary stadium near the o2 (formerly the dome) and ask sports to go to Wembley's indoor arena, I always felt it had the potential to cause a huge row.

Now, it has finally happened with London Mayor Boris Johnson said to be involved in an acrimonious showdown with the British Olympic Association at an Olympic board meeting this week.

The argument was about money. Should 2012 spend £40 million on a temporary venue for badminton and rhythmic gymnastics near the o2 or save money by shuffling sports around and using a venue like Wembley?

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Boris Johnson says Wembley should be used because a temporary venue is a waste of money. He wants boxing to go to Wembley from the Excel arena in east London and the gymnastics and badminton to take its place in Excel.

There have also been attempts, as I reported last year, to persuade badminton to go to Wembley.

But both boxing and badminton have protested that it is too far from the Olympic Village in east London to Wembley. They say 2012 promised athletes would compete and not commute and they don't want their competitors commuting across the capital every day.

I understand Johnson exploded at the board meeting when he was told by British Olympic Association chairman Colin Moynihan that he had to follow the views of the "people that matter" i.e. the sports and the international sports federations.

The Mayor told the meeting that the taxpayers mattered too and vetoed the proposals on the table. So 2012 are facing a venues crisis.

And who should win this argument in a recession? The athletes or the taxpayers?

One thing is certain. They are a long way from a solution.

The shooting venue at Woolwich is opposed by the sport's national governing body because it leaves no legacy and because some say it can't cope with staging the event safely.

Now there is serious talk of moving the sport to Barking. Boris Johnson supports that. But I have learned that Olympics Minister Tessa Jowell is pushing for the shooting to stay at Woolwich but for badminton to go to a cheaper temporary venue at Barking.

Confused? Well you should be. The Olympic world has less than three years before the games when all the venues should be finalised.

This is the week the recession hit the games and the people running them could not decide how to handle it.


  • Comment number 1.

    It would be good to see an homest and open look being taken at the possiblity of moving the olympic shooting to Bisley: I have been greatly unimpressed by the quality of the financial information on the cost of Woolwich vs Bisley made available to me as a parliamentarian.

  • Comment number 2.

    So let me get this straight, several hundred athletes having to spend an extra 20-30 minutes commuting or saving the tax payer 40 million quid!! No brainer,.... with Boris all the way on this one!!

  • Comment number 3.

    I'm afraid Boris Johnson is showing that he completely lacks any understanding of the Olympics. Just for one moment step back and stop looking at the occasion as items on a balance sheet. I want my kids to enjoy this occasion - this is likely to be the only opportunity they will have in their lifetime to watch the Olympics in their own country. What a pity if they have to travel to venues miles from the Olympic Park where the Olympic atmosphere will be completely lacking.

    The same goes for the athletes taking part. All of those athletes have trained for years to compete at the Olympics. They deserve the opportunity to compete as part of the Olympic family.

    And yes Boris, I'm a taxpayer and a Council Tax payer living in London. We don't all agree that this is a waste of money - far from it.

  • Comment number 4.

    The practicality of building an outdoors Olympic Specification Range Complex in an inner city area is coming to the forefront. Ever seen an Olympic Specification Range Complex in London before; no, because there isn’t one.
    The thought that a London Borough be gifted the Olympic Shooting Events unseen, without a construction / safety overlay, is a nonsense.
    Shooting Ranges look like the following link:-
    The National Shooting Centre Bisley Camp
    Still, the poor old taxpayer is going to be hit with the bill; so, nobody on the purse strings is bothered at all.

  • Comment number 5.

    It would be great if they were using the boxing as a chance to spread a bit of the legacy around London (as all of us are paying, but only East London seem to be getting anything back) and actually replaced Wembley Arena, which is, frankly, an eyesore, but as they're not going to do that anyway, I really can't see the point of making a big fuss about 40 million quid when so much more money has already been wasted (What was it? 159 million overspend on the land?). I can't help but think that Boris has seen this as chance to make a show even though it's not really that big a deal.

    To be fair to the athletes, if the organisers are thinking of making them use the tube they're daft. I used to make the journey on the tube from N.W London to Stratford every day to get to uni, and I certainly wouldn't be keen if I was an athlete and I had to face that before the most important day of my life.

  • Comment number 6.

    Is this new thrifty Boris the same one that demanded that the roof on the Olympic Stadium be extended so that it covered all spectators at no specified cpost (but I bet more than £ 20m).

    The same Boris that wants the stadium to keep the 80,000 seats - again at no specificed cost but probbably a lot more than £ 20m for possible use is England win 2018 world cup bid? The same Boris who says the buildings are alreay too expensive to run afterwards?

    In the past, one of the reasons why the Games have bneen so expensive is because of continual changes to specifications of buildings (usually demanded by politicians and not thw IOC of the sports federations) etc which are always more expensive than if in the original designs. London apparently have spent more time on getting the designs right first time and keeping control of the costs.

    Boris can make his point but acting like a 5 year old and screaming at the meeting (as reported) is no way for a suppsed serious politician to act.

    Also, when did Boris suddenly become an expert in international sporting requirements?

  • Comment number 7.

    I'm with Boris on the switch to Wembley and the ExCel centre. The commute time is nothing in comparison to the savings, and it's never made sense to me for the IOC to focus on a compact games. Just like a World Cup makes use of new and existing venues across a country, the Olympics should make use of venues across the city.

    How the IOC could object to a few sports being moved just a few miles when football is being played up in Glasgow I've got no idea.

  • Comment number 8.

    If the argument regarding the use of Wembley Arena is solely based on excessive travel times, can I suggest that it would cost a lot less than £40m to fly them along with al thier coaches and the IOC official from Stratford to Wembley and back every day by helicopter.

  • Comment number 9.

    Just a thought on Adrian's piece tonight 22.9.09 about Olympic lanes. It's not so much that Olympic lanes are written into the Host City contract so that athletes can get to the Stadium on time - that after all is what the Olympic Village is for. It's more to do with getting the IOC top brass to the Park from their West End hotels. 2012 are supposed to point the way forward for the Games of the future. The London 2012 Games will be the first not to damage the planet. There is some cutting-edge recycling going on out there at Stratford! The IOC 'Family' has to catch up with the times and catch the tube. Just like the rest of us. Let's ask Princess Anne to take this one up.


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