Written evidence from UK Athletics (OLL 04)
1. Executive Summary
1.1. UK Athletics (UKA), Britain's Governing Body for the premier Olympic and Paralympic sport is responsible for the preparation and performance of athletes at major international events at all age groups from Junior through to the elite level. This programme is supported by our funding agency, UK Sport and commercial income directly into the sport, and is aimed at getting British athletes to the start line in optimum condition to give them their best opportunity to fulfil their potential.
1.2. UKA also provides strategic direction to the Home Country Athletics Federations (HCAFs) on all aspects of governance and the development of the sport. Since 2007, under the leadership of Chairman Ed Warner and Chief Executive Niels de Vos the sport has been transformed with a clear focus on delivering increased levels of performance, enhanced quality of coaching and a clearer performance pathway for all young athletes.
1.3. Athletics is the foundation of all physical literacy - running, jumping and throwing form the basis of most other sports. A vibrant athletics scene in schools and clubs is beneficial for every sport and UKA works with the Home Country Athletics Federations, Sports Councils, Youth Sport Trust and sponsors, including NASUWT, to ensure continued investment aimed at getting athletics back onto the curriculum.
1.4. UKA has worked closely with the London 2012 bid team and subsequently with LOCOG, the ODA and the Olympic Park Legacy Company since a bid for the Games was first conceived. The original legacy concept that emerged is a testimony to this collaborative work and the stadium will represent a major boost to athletics in the UK when it is delivered in full legacy mode as promised by the Olympic Board after the London Games.
1.5. The legacy and future use of the stadium is still unclear. However UKA continues to work closely with LOCOG, the ODA, the GLA and Olympic Park Legacy Company to resolve this issue.
1.6. This submission is focussed solely on the issue of stadium legacy. On all other areas of legacy UKA continues to work with all relevant parties to capitalise on inspirational aspects of the Games for the wider long term benefit of athletics.
2. Olympic Stadium
2.1. Attendances at athletics meetings range from 50,000+ for Olympics or World Championships to between 8,000-15,000 for the great majority of top domestic meetings. The biggest event in the British calendar - the Aviva London Grand Prix at Crystal Palace - attracts a daily crowd of around 20,000.
2.2. Therefore, the initial dilemma that we faced with the London 2012 bid team was that of the optimum legacy stadium capacity. The capacity decision had to weigh up the 'once in a lifetime' London bid for an Olympics or World Championships against the impact of having a three-quarters empty stadium for all other events.
2.3. The clear preference of athletes, broadcasters and spectators is for a packed stadium, creating an inspirational atmosphere (and a backdrop for television). Thus we have promoted the idea of a stadium with a reduced capacity of c25,000 after the London Games. With a separate warm-up track, this would make the stadium complex suitable for all events from National Schools Championships up to and including the European Championships. The warm-up track is not a 'nice to have', it is essential if the Olympic Stadium is to host any sort of large event, including European or World Championships, Diamond League Grand Prix events, international age group Championships or even English Schools.
2.4. The UK Athletics vision for the stadium was
"aspirational and accessible; inspirational and inclusive - hosting major international championships and televised events, as well as being the pinnacle of domestic athletics competition for all age groups and hosting school, club and community events"
3. The Stadium Brief
3.1. UK Athletics has worked with LOCOG / ODA and their consultants to develop a stadium brief that can deliver the above vision. We have pushed for and gained a commitment to the retention of a warm up track in legacy mode, which is essential to fulfil the major events potential of the Stadium and also offers great benefits to the community use at both school and club level, particularly if the stadium is being shared with field sports where midweek games would disrupt the athletics use. Without this warm up track, it would be impossible to host major international events at the stadium at either senior or age group level.
3.2. UKA have always worked with the partners on stadium legacy on the assumption of shared usage of the facility post 2012 and a Heads of Terms usage agreement outlining this approach was signed in 2008.
3.3. The ODA's original commitment to the legacy needs of athletics means the Olympic Stadium should be the focus for an annual programme of high quality events, including the London Grand Prix and international bid events that can maintain the post-2012 profile of the sport with young people, leading to increased participation and performance in domestic athletics. We can also maximise the prospect of British success from the time-honoured hometown advantage.
3.4. We would also make the stadium the pinnacle of our domestic competition for all ages of athletes. Unlike the 'hallowed turf' of, for example, Wembley Stadium where only a handful of footballers get to play each season, competing at the Olympic Stadium can be a realistic aspiration for thousands of athletes who come through their local and regional competitions. We believe that this will be a major inspiration for the next generations of athletes who must be a legacy of the London Games. Furthermore, the stadium and its second track can become a training venue for club and school athletics in the area.
4. The Current Situation
4.1. Despite the ongoing collaboration with all parties, there is still great uncertainty over the use of the Olympic Stadium in legacy mode.
4.2. The stadium has been shortlisted as one of those that may play a central role in the 2018 World Cup should England be successful
4.3. This would leave an 80,000 seater stadium behind with only partial roof cover.
4.4. Currently there are feasibility studies being carried out to scope out the cost of a 28,000 seater stadium (scalable to 38,000) and 50,000 seats.
4.5. Whilst we are in no doubt that the stadium will be "a purpose built home for athletics for generations to come" as promised by Tessa Jowell in Singapore in 2005 there is a distinct lack of an agreed and long term plan.
4.6. It is important that a plan is identified as soon as possible so UKA can work on a major events bid programme to ensure full usage of the stadium. The ongoing delays in decisions mean we are at risk of missing deadlines. A decision on the host of 2015 World Championships will be taken in 2011 and UKA cannot submit a bid or beginning lobbying whilst we do not know the stadium size, already placing the UK at a significant disadvantage to other bidding cities such as Beijing who began their campaigning last year. Waiting for December's decision on 2018 World Cup, before confirming stadium size, will effectively remove the option of a bid for 2015 World Championships.
4.7. Any bid must be clearly thought through and have full commitment from all parties, UKA cannot afford a repeat of the reputational damage caused in 2005 when the UK withdrew from hosting the World Championships.
4.8. From 2010 the Aviva London Grand Prix will be part of the revolutionary global athletics series, The Diamond League. This will further raise the profile of the sport in the UK and as the only two day event in the 14 meeting series the London Grand Prix will be the highest profile Diamond League event. It is anticipated that the Olympic Stadium will be the annual home of this global event.
5.1. UK Athletics is grateful for the opportunity to input into and influence the development of the Olympic Stadium. We will continue to offer technical assistance as required, and to work with the potential owner/operators of the stadium to produce a compelling annual programme of athletics events of all levels that can sit alongside other sports and tenants.
5.2. Athletics can certainly co-exist with a Premier League football club in a 50,000 seater stadium, but not on any terms. As it stands this route is replete with uncertainty and potentially cost to the public purse. This approach needs considerable investigation.
5.3. Leaving the Olympic Stadium at 80,000 capacity is guaranteed to leave the country with an expensive white elephant and should not form, the basis of any solution.
5.4. We are keen to ensure that there is proper management of the stadium in place in legacy mode. There are a number of issues around ownership, management, tenancy agreements and other tenants that are yet to be resolved. These will also affect the final decisions concerning the stadium in legacy mode and we would like to see these resolved as soon possible to ensure an ongoing commitment to full roofing for spectators and a warm up track post 2012 so stadium usage is optimised.