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Boris's olive branch in Olympic row

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Adrian Warner | 11:53 UK time, Tuesday, 13 October 2009

London Mayor Boris Johnson and Olympics Minister Tessa Jowell have made peace in a heated row over Olympic venues, I can reveal.

I understand that a breakfast meeting took place this morning when Johnson agreed to drop his campaign for the shooting events to be moved from Woolwich to the east London borough of Barking.

In return, Jowell agreed to back the Mayor's hopes of moving the badminton and rhythmic gymnastics to Wembley.

boris.jpgThe disagreement had lead to what officials described as an "acrimonious" Olympic board meeting two weeks ago when Johnson vetoed 2012's plans.

Last week the International Olympic Committee said it was a matter of "urgency" that the row was solved before the end of the year.

Johnson and Jowell will now put their backing behind 2012's hopes of persuading badminton and rythymic gymnastics to move to the Wembley Arena.

This allows 2012 to save at least £20 million because they will not need to build a temporary venue for the sports near the 02, the original plan put forward to the IOC during the bid.

A meeting was due to take place later today to discuss the move between 2012 and international gymnastics officials, who are in London for the world championships at the 02 Arena.

The decision is a boost to Woolwich whose Labour MP Nick Raynsford staged a protest at City Hall last week about the Mayor's plans.

Barking will not lose out in the process, however. Jowell plans to give it the status of an Olympic borough and spend £500,000 on creating training facilities in the east London borough for visiting teams.

The venues row was one of the biggest controversies of the Games so far.

2012 have been trying to find agreement with the IOC and badminton and rhythmic gymnastics for more than a year now.

But sports officials have been reluctant to make the move because it will mean more travelling for competitors from the Olympic village in Stratford in east London.

This will be a key issue at today's meeting.

Johnson is adamant that cost-cutting must take place in the Olympic budget and says a temporary venue would be a waste of taxpayers cash.


  • Comment number 1.

    Anything is better than temporary structures, afterall where's the legacy in those?

    How can the IOC say, "it was a matter of "urgency" that the row was solved before the end of the year" though, doesn't the Olympics only start in nearly 3 years.
    Urgency is what is needed in Delhi, where in less than a year the Commonwealth games will be held and as yet, virtually nothing is ready, most venues and the city's infrastructure being ages behind schedule.

  • Comment number 2.

    Here's the biggest joke - that there will be no shooting legacy because of these silly plans to host it in Woolwich. If legacy was really at the heart of the Games, they would have upgraded Bisley (in Surrey) and held it there. It's closer to London than Manchester, and Manchester used it for the Commonwealth Games in 2002!

  • Comment number 3.

    The Olympic Clock says 1017 days to go, today 14/10/09. What does it mean: it means time is running out.
    The current homeless sports must be fuming at the politician's handling of their events. For the sports to plan their Olympic strategies, they really want to know now, where their venues will be. The sports require a free run and trial events as a warm up, to be assured of the events success at the 2012 Olympics.
    We all read that this is an "Olympic Games for the Athletes", well it's up to Tessa Jowell, Boris Johnson, Lord Coe, LOCOG and the ODA to keep politics out of the Olympics and give the athletes an unforgettable enduring experience.
    While the politicians are eroding the lead time on the Olympic Sports; they are selling the Sports short of their own organising phase. Managing an individual Olympic Sporting Event is just as complicated as running the whole Olympics.
    All the Sports require is sufficient time to build their team.

  • Comment number 4.

    Good to see a consensus on this. It will be interesting to see how the "sports" politics plays out now.

    Adrian you recently commented on your blog "There is no problem with Wembley as a venue. In fact the world badminton champs are going there in the year before the Games. But this is all about what they call "back of house" facilities at the Olympics -- all the space needed for competitors, sponsors and the extra security etc. Wembley Arena is quite small in that respect."

    It seems that the IOC might be the hardest to convince?

  • Comment number 5.

    But are going to waste a further £25million on holding the shooting in Woolwich instead of Barking! Woolwich offers no legacy, where as Barking will keep the range. Woolwich is not a safe venue as people live too close and the wall will only absorb 89% or the bullets!

    Wembley does not provide any legacy either, temporary facilities are a waste of time and money, but the Barking Venue for Badminton and Rhythmic Gymnastics would have remained after the games as a centre of excellence and community facility.

    Yet again; we are saying the best is too good for us, we will make do with second best, but are still paying first class prices!



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