Within a day of Sebastian Coe winning election to one of the most powerful positions in world sport, users of the under-threat facilities at Crystal Palace National Sports Centre have issued a challenge to the double Olympic gold medal-winner to be as good as his word over the venue’s “legacy” role following the 2012 London Games.
Before he was elected President of the International Association of Athletics Federations at a meeting in Beijing yesterday, Lord Coe had held the position of executive chairman of a company, CSM Sport and Entertainment, which conducted a consultation last year on behalf of his Tory colleague, Mayor of London Boris Johnson, on the future of the former national athletics stadium.
Coe’s CSM consultation offered four options, all of which suggested the demolition of much of the stadium and other sports facilities.
Before the 2012 Games, the training facilities at Crystal Palace had been a crucial element of the Olympic legacy planning for athletics in south London, Surrey, Kent and Sussex. Coe was chairman of the London Olympic bid and organising committee which had made sporting legacy such a key part of its sporting offer in return for public investment of £9billion.
“As chairman of London 2012 Lord Coe pledged the Olympic Games would ‘inspire a generation’,” said John Powell of the Crystal Palace Sports Partnership, a body made up of track, swimming and diving, gymnastics, trampolining and other sports coaches and users.
“But with continued chronic under-investment at the Crystal Palace NSC, the need is now for him to actively support his global manifesto ‘Growing athletics in a new age’ locally, to ensure the CPNSC is facilitating sporting opportunities for generations to come.”
The home of British athletics from the 1960s until the development of the Olympic Stadium at Stratford, Crystal Palace used to stage world-class track and field events annually, including the 1994 World Cup organised by the IAAF, over which Lord Coe now presides. Until last year’s consultation, it had been thought that the centre would be used as an important training base south of the Thames.
“With Seb at the helm of world athletics we have a great opportunity to bring about much-needed change in all elements of the sport,” Powell said.
Powell and the users’ group have highlighted the contrast between Coe’s positioning when seeking election to the IAAF role and the actions of his company closer to home.
“We applaud Seb’s vision for athletics globally, but this must include retaining and enhancing the CPNSC, which played such a key role in his journey to the IAAF presidency,” Powell said.
The track and its stadium are not the only elements of the sports centre under threat. The proposals being considered at City Hall include the demolition of the training pool and indoor training area.
Powell and the users’ group have been seeking potential investors in the sports centre, to help see-off the threats to its future which include plans to build a privately run free school in the middle of Crystal Palace Park.
“We passionately believe that the most accessible multi-sport and event venue in London – and probably the UK – requires positive planning for increased capacity. With the Mayor of London’s Sports Legacy Programme well underway, no other venue can strengthen the grassroots sport sector in London and deliver a sustained grassroots sporting legacy like the CPNSC, which has been successfully delivering over the last 50 years,” Powell said.
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