Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

A Stunning Half-Century

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

A Stunning Half-Century

Article excerpt

Byline: By Beth Neil

Gateshead International Stadium celebrates its 50th anniversary this weekend. Chief Features Writer Beth Neil takes a look into the past, present and future

It might not have been the swanky, ultra-modern training facility it is today, but to Syd Robson, Gateshead Stadium in 1955 was the lap of luxury.

A Harrier since 1948, Syd had become used to slumming it at the Shuttles playground in Teams, Gateshead. A grass field with a wooden hut, no lights, no toilet and no water.

"When Gateshead Stadium opened we had showers," he smiles. "And dressing rooms. And a running track and cycle track. We thought it was fantastic.

"To be able to get a shower after a hard evening's training was a real treat."

Fifty years on, the stadium is almost unrecognisable from when Syd was in his prime.

"Oh, it's just got bigger and better every year," he says. "We've got new running tracks and fantastic facilities. I remember when they put the stand up and it started to look like a proper international stadium. It's brilliant for Gateshead, and it's brilliant for the kids.

"I suppose my one regret is missing Brendan Foster break the world record for the 3,000 metres in 1974 at Gateshead. I was doing a 10-mile race at Redcar. But my son Bruce was there to see it."

Although now 72 and a grandfather of five, Syd, who is married to Vera and lives in Eighton Banks, Gateshead, has no intention of leaving his athletics days behind.

On Wednesday night he completed a 5k race in an impressive 30 minutes and he is down at the stadium every Tuesday and Thursday evening coaching the latest batch of youngsters hoping to hit the big time.

"We've got some very talented kids coming through at the minute," he says.

"And of course, the 2012 Olympics will give them all an extra boost to do well. They've something special to aim for." What was originally called Gateshead Youth Stadium was opened by marathon hero Jim Peters on August 27, 1955. It featured a cinder running track and asphalt cycling velodrome costing a whopping ( for back then ( pounds 30,000. The following year saw floodlights installed and in the early 1960s the track surface was upgraded, winning Gateshead a 3As Grade A Certificate, which meant record performances could now be accepted.

And so arrived the first international stars. To keep up with other stadiums across the UK, the first grandstand was soon constructed over the changing room block, providing 170 covered seats.

But it was not until the 1970s that the truly modern stadium facilities began to take shape.

East Terrace seating, new toilets, changing rooms and offices, a training and weights indoor area and the Tyne & Wear Stand were all completed in the space of a decade. The 1980s and 1990s also saw continual upgrading, but last November, Gateshead took on its biggest project yet. …

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