London To Keep Grand Prix

Grand prix is Britain’s even if Palace falls

Duncan Mackay
Tuesday November 25, 2003
The Guardian

A senior official at the International Association of Athletics Federations has urged Britain not to close down Crystal Palace because of its significance


in the history of the sport.

Crystal Palace was the venue for the IAAF World Cup final in 1994 and has been the scene of 21 world records. “The stadium has tradition - everyone knows it,” said Istvan Gyulai, the general secretary of the IAAF. “Once you are in the stadium, after negotiating the traffic, we’ve had some terrific nights there.”

But Gyulai has promised that the IAAF will not move the flagship British grand prix meeting, due to be staged on July 30, outside the country if it has to be relocated. “It would be very sad if it was closed but Britain would not lose the meeting,” he said. “It could hold it at Birmingham, Sheffield or Manchester if it wanted. The event has been awarded to UK Athletics, not Crystal Palace.”

Sport England’s lease at Crystal Palace runs out next March and it will hand the centre - which also has London’s only Olympic-size swimming pool - over to Bromley council.

Sport England has written to Bromley offering to contribute towards a £30m redevelopment and a £1m short-term facelift which would allow athletics events to continue to be held in London - something which is needed with the capital bidding for the 2012 Olympics.

Bromley claims, however, that it cannot afford to refurbish the 40-year-old facility and will close it unless other agencies provide financial help. It argues that the stadium is a national resource and should be paid for by the country not local taxpayers.

The row is threatening to overshadow London’s bid for the 2012 Olympic Games. “It would not be a good message if we go into a bid about to lose the capital’s only major stadium which is at the centre of the major Olympic sport,” said the bid’s vice-chairman Sebastian Coe.