Charge to see training

Spectators to be charged to watch Olympic stars train in Birmingham

* by Neil Elkes, Birmingham Post
* Feb 23 2011

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Alexander Stadium, Perry Barr
Alexander Stadium, Perry Barr

Plans to charge people to watch Olympic athletes, including world record holder Usain Bolt, training in Birmingham have been put forward in a bid to boost council income.

Birmingham City Council leader Mike Whitby wants to sell tickets for training sessions involving the USA Track and Field team and Jamaica team ahead of the London 2012 Games as part of a wider plan to raise money at a time of budget cuts.

Many of the world’s greatest athletes, including world record holder Bolt and Asafa Powell and Tyson Gay, will be warming up for the Olympics at the state-of-the-art facilities at Alexander Stadium in Perry Barr and University of Birmingham at Edgbaston.
Usain Bolt

And the council has highlighted the team-up as offering a great chance to get youngsters and families involved in the Olympics and also provide positive role models.

But Perry Barr Labour MP Khalid Mahmood, who represents communities surrounding Alexander Stadium, believes that charging for admission to training sessions is against the spirit of the Olympics.

He said: “It’s absolutely disgraceful. This is a scrooge measure by this council which will deter ordinary people in Birmingham from engaging with the Olympics.

“How are we supposed to encourage and inspire young people from poorer backgrounds to enjoy sport if we exclude them when these athletes are on their doorstep?”

He added: “The people have already paid for the Olympics through their taxes. This should be abandoned before it goes too far.”

Conservative council leader Mike Whitby has been personally involved in negotiations to bring the Olympic teams to Birmingham, including visits to Jamaica and World Athletics Championships in Berlin to talk to the athletes.

He raised the idea of charging for the training session during a briefing on the council’s ability to deal with £212 million budget cut.

Coun Whitby said: “We need a more effective way of generating revenue. We have a tremendous capacity to increase revenue. We have the Olympic training camps coming next year which is a fantastic opportunity.

"We are looking at charging to watch the athletes train.”

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