Robertson: Government "unlikely" to underwrite bid for 2015 World Athletics Championships
By Tom Degun in New Delhi
October 10 - Sport Minister Hugh Robertson has revealed the Government is unlikely to underwrite a bid for the World Athletics Championships in 2015.
UK Athletics and London 2012 chairman Sebastian Coe have expressed their desire to see the event come to the 2012 Olympic Stadium which had been tipped to host them as part of its long-term sustainability and legacy plan.
But any bid for the prestigious event - the third biggest televised event after the Olympics and World Cup - the will almost certainly be withdrawn without Government support.
Robertson revealed that an independent study had shown that UK Athletics would not be able to cover the cost of the event from sponsorship and ticket sales and stated the Government would not be able to commit to underwriting any funding gap.
Robertson said: “The question is not the guarantees around visas and so on.
"I have said we will do that.
"The question is how you fill a £25 million black hole that lies at the centre of this bid.
"Some of this you can fill through sponsorship and other things but it’s still going to leave a pretty sizeable commitment.
"Once you have done it for one sport, then every single other sport trying to mount a bid is going to be after me for the same sort of money."
Beijing, using their magnificent Bird’s Nest Stadium, are the only other bidder for the 2015 event, but the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) are expected to look favorably on a European bid.
The World Athletics Championships, which feature the sport’s top stars such as Usain Bolt, would be one of the few events capable of filling the Olympic Stadium for athletics if it retains the running track and a capacity of 60,000, as envisaged under the joint bid from West Ham United and Newham council.
Margaret Ford, the Olympic Park Legacy Company chair, stopped short of ruling out the rival bid from Tottenham Hotspur and AEG on the grounds that it proposes to remove the track.
But while refusing to comment on individual bids, she signalled it would not be looked on favourably if there was no legacy for athletics, stating: "One of our criteria was they had to tell how us how they would meet the Olympic promise for athletics in legacy.
"That has not changed."
However, the absence of the 2015 World Athletics Championships for the stadium would be a huge blow to those who called for a tangible 2012 legacy for athletics in East London.
And while Robertson remains committed for an athletics future for the venue, he said he is not prepared to take the risk of bearing the full burden of financial losses with impending cuts set to hit sport’s annual budget on October 20.
Robertson said: "It [athletics] was an absolutely core part of our bid.
"That commitment will be honoured.
"If UK Athletics wants an answer from me on this before then it will be ‘no’.
"I will not make any decision before I know how much money we have to spend [after the spending review on October 20].
"But if I have to make a choice between underwriting losses and funding elite athletes I will choose athletes every time."
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