Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Jowell Ignored Warning; Athletics Fiasco

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Jowell Ignored Warning; Athletics Fiasco

Article excerpt


CULTURE SECRETARY Tessa Jowell ignored warnings from senior officials within British sport that scrapping plans to stage the 2005 World Athletics Championships at Picketts Lock would damage this country's image for years to come.

Although Jowell and her Sports Minister Richard Caborn were due to meet Lamine Diack, president of the International Association of Athletic Federations, at Heathrow Airport this afternoon, their plans to offer Sheffield as an alternative host city to London are expected to fail.

While Sheffield might be invited by the IAAF to bid for the event, Tokyo, Berlin or Sydney all stand a better chance if the selection process is reopened.

That means Britain has almost certainly thrown away the chance to stage the third biggest sporting event in the world after the Olympics and football's World Cup.

It is an embarrassing U-turn by ministers and a massive blow to British sport's international reputation. Any hopes London might have had of bidding for the Olympics in 2012 are now in serious jeopardy.

But, according to a letter written by Adrian Metcalfe, chairman of UK Sport's major events steering group, and obtained by Standard Sport, Jowell was made fully aware of the implications of yesterday's decision.

In his letter, dated 3 October, he writes: "At such a critical time in your decision making it would be remiss of me not to draw attention to the fact that continued uncertainty surrounding the 2005 World Athletics Championships has considerable implications for the credibility of the United Kingdom and its future aspirations for hosting major world class events.

"If we walk away from a commitment given on three occasions to the president of the IAAF by among others the Prime Minister and your predecessor to deliver a venue and a world class athletics event in London our well laid plans to extend British influence in international sport will seriously be undermined.

"I write to you out of genuine concern and to bring your attention to the possibly disastrous long term ramifications of having the 2005 World Athletics Championships removed. …

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