The Olympic marathon row entered a new phase this weekend, after it was confirmed that the mayor of Tower Hamlets intends to defy a final ruling by the International Olympic Committee over the controversial relocation of the flagship event away from the East End.
On Friday London 2012 committee chairman Lord Coe announced that the IOC had rubber-stamped a new, central London route that excludes Tower Hamlets.
But today it was confirmed that despite the IOC’s decision, the borough’s mayor Lutfur Rahman will not be dropping his legal challenge to the route change.
A council spokesperson said that Mr Rahman would still be seeking a judicial review and that the IOC’s decision would have “no effect” on his determination to bring the marathon back to the East End.
Lord Coe has insisted that the committee’s decision is final.
Tower Hamlets council sought legal advice in September after the 2012 organising committee scrapped the original marathon route, which ran through the heart of the East End borough and finished at the Olympic Stadium in Stratford, in favour of one that finished at The Mall.
London politicians. Rushanara Ali, MP for Bethnal Green and Bow accused the 2012 committee of being “ashamed” of the East End, while Mr Rahman said the “spirit” of the Olympic bid had been ignored.
Yesterday, Lord Coe sought to quell criticisms, citing “very good operational reasons” such as security and traffic for the route change.
“Decisions have been communicated to the international federations and the IOC. They have been signed off and I won’t be changing my mind,” he said.
Denis Oswald, chair of the IOC’s inspection team, said he “understood the disappointment” felt in Tower Hamlets but said that the original route was not feasible. “We still have competitions running the day we have the marathon. The original route could have made athletes, judges or media late,” he said.
In a statement on Monday Mr Rahamn said ““We have not taken the decision to seek a judicial review lightly; however we feel there is no alternative option open to us.”
“We believe the London 2012 committee has acted unlawfully in re-routing the Olympic marathon and failed to adhere to the spirit of the original bid, which sought to showcase east London.”
Based on this week’s IOC decision, Tower Hamlets will become the only one of five host boroughs not holding its own Olympic event.
“We’re concerned Tower Hamlets will be little more than a glorified thoroughfare between the City of London and the Olympic Park,” Mr Rahman said.
More than 1,100 people have signed a petition backing the council’s bid to bring the marathon back to Tower Hamlets.
On Tuesday a community group proposed a compromise in the form of a third route, dubbed the “People’s Route”. The East London Communities Organisation suggested a route that would start at The Mall, and take in West London, Tower Bridge, Tower Hamlets and Hackney and finish at the Olympic Stadium.
The group backed Tower Hamlets council in their dissatisfaction with the 2012 committee’s favoured route, pointing out that it would represent the first time in Olympic history that the marathon had not ended at an Olympic stadium.