UK Athletics chief Ed Warner has called for the National Sports Centre at Crystal Palace to receive a cash boost.
Warner said that Crystal Palace, a Diamond League venue that was due to cease hosting international athletics after 2013, needs investment from the Mayor of London Boris Johnson.
The appeal was made yesterday at a conference for UK Sport’s Gold Event Series, a £27m Lottery funded initiative to bring more high profile world sporting events into the country.
The extra funding may be needed because of what Warner described as the “Stratford farce” – the announcement that events cannot be held in the £486m Olympic arena until 2016.
In today’s meeting of the London Assembly, Boris Johnson confirmed that the Olympic Stadium is unlikely to reopen until after the Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games in 2016.
Warner said: “It is the Mayor that will have to spend the money, as it [Crystal Palace] is his facility. It is limping along. We dress it really beautifully for television and the audience for Diamond League meetings.
“The experience of watching top athletics there is great, but it is not the same as the Olympic Stadium, as we all saw in the summer. We have got to replicate that for major international athletics to maintain the interest of the public.
“It’s about getting bums on seats, and the seats are much better in the Olympic Stadium than at the Palace.”
Warner also said that Olympic Park uncertainty also meant potential events were “dribbling through the fingers of the [Olympic] legacy organization” and that he wanted “to see kids’ athletics in the stadium”.
The stadium in Stratford is to undergo redevelopment, with football club West Ham bidding against Leyton Orient and two other interested parties to take over the stadium’s 99-year lease.
The Mayor of London will help decide who should take over the lease and a decision is expected in the first half of 2013.
Warner, who also chairs at the International Paralympic Committee, has urged those involved to hurry their decision.
He said: “Diamond League [athletics]; trials; school games: all of the legacy use of the stadium which has been planned all along was scheduled to start in two years time, and now it might be four years time, which is ludicrous.“
There seems to be a paralysis of decision making which I hope the Mayor is going to cut through.”
Hugh Robertson, Minister for Sport, said at the sport conference: “If I had a magic wand and I could open the park up now, I would. If there is a magic spell I will stand up and say it.
“I want the park opened up as quickly as possible.”
The northern section of the park is due to open in 2014, along with the re-opening of the Velodrome.