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Anger over 2012 Wembley 'backtrack'

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Adrian Warner | 12:41 UK time, Thursday, 10 December 2009

International gymnastics chiefs have accused London 2012 of going back on a key bid promise to the athletes by moving some Olympic events to Wembley Arena.

London organisers are struggling to persuade badminton and rhythmic gymnastics to sign up to Wembley because of the travelling time from the athletes' village in east London.

The sports were due to be held much closer to the Olympic Park in a temporary arena near the O2.

Asked if 2012 had gone back on their pledge that athletes would compete - and not commute - at the Games, International Gymnastics Federation secretary general Andre Gueisbuhler told the BBC: "Yes. I always said it was about the athletes' experience.

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"I loved your nice bus at the closing ceremony in Beijing but I think the athletes' experience is not about the bus. It's about being with the other athletes, about being in the Olympic village and about having a very short travelling time from the Olympic village to the training venue."

It was originally hoped that a deal would be struck about Wembley at this week's International Olympic Committee executive board meeting in Lausanne. But both badminton and gymnastics chiefs are not happy and are unlikely to make a decision for another two months.

'Mission impossible'

2012 officials are offering to put up athletes in hotels near to Wembley during competitions. They are also working on plans which they say would cut travel time from the village to around 45 minutes.

In an interview with BBC London, Gueisbuhler stressed that talks with London organisers were going well and he praised the initiatives.

But he added: "You know how much time you need from the Olympic village to Wembley. This is almost mission impossible and it can take one hour and 15 minutes or one hour and 45 minutes to get there and we can't have that.

"We will have to insist that an Olympic lane is made on the North Circular road. We realise that the public of London will perhaps not be happy but at the end of the day, athletes must be at the centre of all we do. "

London Mayor Boris Johnson has been keen to reduce the number of Olympic lanes but he has also been pushing hard for the move to Wembley in order to save paying £40million for the temporary venue at the O2.

Gueisbuhler said he recognised the economic arguments for the change.

"I understand that £40 million is a lot of money for a temporary venue. But on the other hand, London has made a promise to the whole world and we were very happy to support the London bid because we were happy that everything was in one cluster and rhythmic gymnastics was close to the 02," he said.

"It's talking to each other that you find a solution - not just by saying we move them out and they have to accept. At the moment, we are having very positive and friendly talks."


  • Comment number 1.

  • Comment number 2.

    I listened to Lord Coe’s comments at the end of the item and was flabbergasted at what he said.
    He was adamant that it was much better to use a site that was already there, and had already been used before for the Olympics, rather than wasting money by building a new venue (at a huge cost) and then knocking it down afterwards. He was adamant that this would be a huge waste of public money.

    However when it was previously put to him and the rest of the “international Olympics Committee that Bisley would be the best venue for the shooting events, they were adamant that they were going to spent 20 million to build a new venue at Woolwich Barracks and then spend a further 5 million demolishing it afterwards.

    The hypocrisy is staggering. And coming from a man who was once president of the National Pistol Association (NPA) it beggars belief. I realise that after Dunblane he dropped the title like a hot potato. But surely he has had enough time to realise that shooting is not the evil sport that was vilified by the government, the police and the media after that awful tragedy, and that given the proper venue and funding, shooting can once again win medals for Great Britain.


  • Comment number 3.

    Come on Seb, put yourself in the shoes of these athletes. Think back to Moscow and Los Angeles and ask yourself what it would have been like to get on the coach for over an hour before competing on the track or alternatively not being given the opportunity to live in the Village with every other athlete. You would have hated it.

    This cannot be the right decision - just because Boris and Tessa are frit about the cost!



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