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The Olympic Legacy

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26 November 2007

 

Ed Warner column as seen in Athletics Weekly magazine

 

On each of the past two Saturdays I have run a parkland 5K time trial - at absolutely no cost. They were a wonderful antidote to having to answer the numerous media enquiries about the budgeted £496m cost of London’s Olympic stadium.

 

Athletics in the UK is still smarting at the political U-turn that cost it the 2005 World Championships. It is little wonder, then, that we are highly sensitised to any issues surrounding the Olympic stadium, particularly its configuration and ownership after the 2012 games.

 

UKA has lobbied hard in recent months to ensure that the scaled-down 25,000 seat legacy stadium will have a roof, and that there will be a warm-up track in close proximity. Together, these will help ensure that the stadium can be used to good effect for athletics, and will be sufficiently attractive to other tenant sports.

 

History suggests that we will only finally be able to celebrate these facilities when they are in place. With the Olympic Board yet to finalise the full legacy plans – including finding a stadium landlord – and a general election and any changes that could occur in government over the next 5 years, it is possible that there are further twists and turns in the legacy road ahead.

 

All of which makes for a rather surreal experience in answering questions about whether £496m represents good value for a 25,000 seat athletics arena. Those questioning us forget that the budget largely represents a cost of delivering a multi billion pound games, not to mention that these games were awarded to Britain in part because the IOC were promised an athletics legacy for London.

 

We have concentrated our efforts – rightly I believe – on making the best that we can of that legacy. Cost is for others to fret over. When budgetary constraints collide with athletics’ needs, that is when we must strive to ensure there are no false economies.

 

Track and field operates on an inherently expensive stage. The Olympics in London, I am sure, will prove a wonderful spectacle. They will be all the greater if they leave behind a stadium that all athletes in the UK, whatever their age, can aspire to compete in. Our plan for use of the legacy stadium will give them that opportunity. 

 

Road and cross-country running, by contrast, can be delivered at little or no expense. The UK Time Trials (UKTT) series, begun three years ago in Bushy Park, is mushrooming, with weekly races recently begun in Leeds and Brighton. Free, simple to enter, open to all ages; this franchised; volunteer-based model is about as accessible and inexpensive as racing can get.

 

The first UKTT I ran saw a local schoolboy come second in a highly respectable 17:12. Under 5 years to 2012 and counting…