POSTED: November 7th 2008

Stadium legacy is UK call

Lamine Diack and Jacques Rogge: two presidents with two differing points of view /
Lamine Diack and Jacques Rogge: two presidents with two differing points of view /

KEIR RADNEDGE / Sports Features Communications

LONDON/TAMPA: Lamine Diack risked the appearance of a man out of touch with today’s economic reality when he attacked IOC president Jacques Rogge over the long-term future of the London 2012 Olympic stadium.

Diack, president of the International Association of Athletics Federations, had every right to stand up for the needs of his own sport.

Trouble is, any Olympic stadium is about more than athletics.

The Olympic stadium wears many other faces. Other sports use it – football, for example - and, as the Chinese demonstrated in breathtaking fashion at the Beijing opening ceremony, the stadium can also be a propaganda weapon. Also, it is purpose-built only for a short-lived sporting extravaganza.

Rogge, speaking in Brussels last week, had recognised that the London venue would need substantial redevelopment to remain alive as a venue for sport of any kind, perhaps football; above all, with a clear eye on the current global financial crisis, Rogge expressed an aversion to the “white elephant” legacy.

Memories of Montreal

He is probably more aware than most of how long it took the Olympic movement to recover from the financial disaster of the Montreal Games – a “white elephant Olympiad” if ever there was one.

The IAAF president sees it differently. Heading towards the annual World Athletics Gala on November 23, he defended Usain Bolt against Rogge’s “showboating” criticism in Beijing but, far more significantly, opposed the IOC leader’s softening of his stance on the 2012 stadium.

Diack said: “I have to take issue with comments [by] the IOC president that: ‘We should avoid leaving white elephants and if the best solution is to transform the track into something else then we would be in favour of that.’

“As the leader of the world governing body for athletics I think this shows a lack of respect for my sport.

“As an IOC member, I voted for the host city for 2012 and one of the most compelling arguments in favour of London was the fact that the city desperately needed a world-class venue for athletics.

Games' great expectations

“A promise was made and I believe it is totally reasonable to expect that the most important sport of the summer Olympics, which is athletics, gets to live on after the three-week period of the Games is over.”

He regretted the use-change of the 1996 Olympic stadium in Atlanta and noted that, as a result, “the USA does not have a single venue capable of hosting an IAAF world championships in athletics.”

Diack conceded the possibility of a multi-sport legacy, but opposed scrapping the track. In a message to London organising leader Lord Sebastian Coe, he promised: “The IAAF totally supports your efforts to find the best solution for a permanent legacy for athletics in the UK.”

Realistically the IOC is pursuing solutions for the best legacy of venues but, especially in these tight market times, commonsense dictates a solution, post-2012, which is physically possible and financially feasible to generate maximum community value.
This was clearly Rogge’s perception. In any case he is also well aware that once the Olympic cavalcade has passed through London it will be the UK authorities which will cast the final stadium vote.

Keywords · lamine diack · iaaf · jacques rogge · london 2012 · olympic stadium

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