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London hopes for third time lucky

David Bond | 21:18 UK time, Thursday, 10 November 2011

After hosting the 2012 Olympics, the prospect of staging the World Athletics Championships five years later may seem a bit of an anti-climax for London.

But there is a lot at stake when the 27 members of the IAAF council make their decision at the Fairmont Hotel in Monte Carlo on Friday.

First of all there's British sporting pride. After the humiliation of England's defeat in the race to stage the 2018 football World Cup last December, the country has again put a lot on the line to try to secure a major international sports event.

If London loses it would be the third time in a decade that the city has come up short with track and field's blue riband event. The 2005 championships had to be handed back after the Picketts Lock fiasco while a bid for 2015 was dropped because of uncertainty surrounding the legacy plans for the Olympic Stadium.

Lose out again and there have to be serious doubts over London's willingness to bid again for 2019.

But even more important than all that is the question of legacy for London's £500m Olympic Stadium after 2012.

Lord Coe and Hannah England run round track at Olympic Stadium

Will the track at the Olympic Stadium see action in 2017? Picture: Getty.

When sports minister Hugh Robertson announced last month that the deal to hand the venue over to West Ham and Newham Council had been terminated, one of the reasons cited was to bring greater certainty at a time when London was trying to persuade the IAAF to back the city's 2017 World Championships bid.

The legal dispute with Tottenham meant there could be no guarantees over when the stadium reopened after the Games and with the IAAF burned by previous encounters with London, it was decided to take the stadium back into public ownership, guaranteeing the track is retained in a 60,000-seater venue.

If London were to now lose, then it will be deeply embarrassing for ministers who have staked so much on this one event six years from now.

Although the Olympic Park Legacy Company has not reopened the tender process for potential rental tenants in the stadium after the Games, we now know they will be bidding for a 99-year lease.

All the signs are West Ham will end up renting the stadium under those terms, but without the prospect of the one major event athletics can deliver, then many will ask 'why retain the running track at all'?

Lord Coe's promise may have been crucial in securing the London 2012 Games but keeping that promise has to be balanced against a potential subsidy of £5m a year for an athletics stadium which may never host the sport's main event.

As one government source confided in me this week, winning the 2017 bid will make everyone's lives a lot easier.

There are other considerations too. Lord Coe's own career after 2012 is also intertwined with Friday's decision. Failure to win the vote will cast further doubt on his chances of becoming president of the IAAF when Lamine Diack stands down in 2015.

For the IAAF this comes down to a straight choice between the safe bet of a return to the sport's European heartland or a leap into the unknown with Doha - albeit one cushioned by Qatar's considerable wealth.

Doha has tried to overcome doubts over the heat (they will stage the championships in September to try and avoid the searing summer temperatures) by flexing its financial muscles this week. The bid promised to underwrite the IAAF's £5m prize money commitments.

London counters that by promising to deliver greater broadcasting and commercial revenues.

London also hopes its considerable support in the International Olympic Committee - earned through the smooth planning for the 2012 Games - will persuade the IAAF to support them. The IOC is deeply uneasy about Qatar's plans to bid for the 2020 Olympics (because of the heat) and knows awarding Doha the 2017 World Championships could present them with a real dilemma.

In the last few weeks, the government has gone to great lengths to convince the IAAF it really wants these championships. It has agreed to underwrite potential losses of £25m, they took the stadium back into public ownership to safeguard the track (although Spurs' legal challenge to the West Ham decision was a greater factor in this) and even last week Hugh Robertson flew to Monaco for a meeting with Diack.

All that should give London the edge even in the face of Doha's finances and promise to take the event to the Arab world for the first time.

But as the 2018 World Cup vote demonstrated, it is never wise to assume anything when it comes to decisions made in secret by unaccountable governing bodies.


  • Comment number 1.

    Fingers crossed we win but as many cities (i.e Paris for 2012, England ( i know it's not a city) for the WC) have found out in the past, this is not guaranteed.

    At least with the World's normal punters will be able to buy tickets and not be the over hyped olympics which is so disconnected from the rest of the country. Just hope this time people in the UK will be able to buy the tickets they want like the rest of europe was allowed to for the olympics and not through a silly ballot system.

    Finally, did anyone from 2012 explain why the UK public wasn't told about how they could / allowed to buy tickets from European countries. Why did take a newspaper report to find this out. Surely people at 2012 knew the system other countries were doing to sell their ticket allocation.

  • Comment number 2.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 3.

    At 2

    Didn't London 2012 bid get told off for saying they would offer each competitor a open return flight? If so, what's the difference between that and Doha bid to promise to underwrite the IAAF's £5m prize money commitments?

  • Comment number 4.

    Suppose it would be daft of me to ask who is paying the bid costs and underwriting the staging of the event......

    The unelected Coe and his cohorts playing with other peoples money again.

  • Comment number 5.

    @4 - maybe we should just not bother staging any event of any description then!

    It's good for the country as a whole, and it's good for our economy when people from all over the world are spending their money in our country.

  • Comment number 6.

    @5 - It's good for London and the surrounding area, it's not good for the rest of the country. The money stays in and around London and the South East.

  • Comment number 7.


    Stop wasting taxpayers' money on these non-events. I for one won't be watching Olympics next year.

    What is there to be exited about. People running?? I see these lunatics everyday on the road and in the Parks. Give it a break, will ya ??

    Boris is a bit loopy, isn't he???. I mean, there are important things to spent money on than watching athletics..... . . . Are you all going mad ????

  • Comment number 8.

    Great attitude Matt.

    For a start, yes there is money paid out to secure the Games however if you consider another artice on here states the bid team expect the 60,000 capacity to be sold out for each session there will be a considerable sum coming the other way from visitors and locals alike.

    And secondly, re the actual activity, I'd hazard a guess these "lunatics" find themselves in a very fit and healthy state. How terrible.

  • Comment number 9.

    #7 you might as well say about literally everything. Why on earth you think it is out of date, is absurd. It's no more out of date than any other sport such as cricket, rugby, football, tennis, etc.

  • Comment number 10.

    @7 Really? Really?! I guess if YOU aren't a fan then there is absolutely no way that anybody else should be allowed to enjoy the top level of sporting competition in its purest form then. Also, you know that adding another question mark or three doesn't make it any more of a question. Or any more cretinous a comment for that matter.

  • Comment number 11.

    Personally I'd rather have the World Champs than the self-congratulatory event that is the Olympics - either that or scrap one of them.

  • Comment number 12.

    And don't forget today is also the decision on who will host the 2018 Commonwealth Games in 2018 to follow Glasgow 2014 - the Australian Gold Coast or Sri Lanka's Hambantota. The Commonwealth Games is the world's third biggest multi-sports event watched by a third of the world's population, so worth a mention!

  • Comment number 13.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 14.

    To see the world's best compete, of course I want them here in the UK. Fingers crossed we get them and it may go some way to correcting the mistakes of 2005.

    @7 tax payers money wasted, well it depends on your point of view regarding athletics. There is a good case for staging the games but very little can be offered for not competing for them. In fact I could give countless examples, where on a daily basis, we waste far greater amounts of tax payers money.

  • Comment number 15.

    #7 - I'm sure the tax burden of dealing with obesity and smoking neither of which are common traits of sports persons, is a hell of a lot more than staging this one off event. I also tend to find the social benefits of getting school kids active in sports to be great as they learn how to be with other people and before you say it, although isn't a team game it still brings about camaradery.

    If you're going to get anti-athletics far worse the amount of drugs cheats and the failure of the authorities to deal with them properly (2 year to 4 year bans).

    I personaly think this is way too quick to be hosting having only 5 years before had the Olympics. Surely the whole thing should be spread much further and perhaps we can do it in 2015/19 so a new generation can watch it and be inspired.

  • Comment number 16.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 17.

    @7 - Yes I know where you will be - sat watching 'your' premiership side on sky??

    tsk - another wandering football fan with no interest in anything apart from their sport. I can do both - running helps to counteract the beer gut you get watching footie!

  • Comment number 18.

    Good to see money doesn't just talk as the main advantage for one sporting organisation.

    Well done to the guys who made the successful bid.

  • Comment number 19.



    We've been told by the Coalition Government to tighten our belts as austerity measures are being introduced. Now the money saved looks likely to be earmarked for more Athletics meetings, or if not that, then its foreign excursions again to some poor Third World countries to annihilate their people and destruy their infrastructures.

  • Comment number 20.

    contd. . .

    ...the bill for next years Olympics has already escalated out of sight and nobody is counting any more, coz they are embarrassed to tell the taxpayer the billions they are being asked to pay for it.

    These lot really need their brain looking at, or better still, their backside kicking !!


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