By Duncan Mackay

Denise_Lewis_with_Sebastian_Coe_at_unveiling_of_Olympic_torchOctober 1 - Olympic champions Denise Lewis and Jason Gardener have been chosen to head an Athletes Commission set-up to advise and support London's bid to host the 2017 World Athletics Championships, which is being headed by Sebatian Coe, it has been announced on the eve of a crucial visit from the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF).

Lewis, the Sydney 2000 heptathlon champion, will chair the Commission while Gardener, a member of Britain's 4x100 metres relay team that won the gold medal at Athens in 2004, will be vice-chairman.

Their first role will be to be play an important when the IAAF Evaluation Commission, led by American Bob Hersh, arrives in London tomorrow to begin an inspection of the bid. 

"Bringing the 2017 World Athletics Championships to London's Olympic Stadium would be the perfect way to continue the city's Olympic legacy, so I am very excited to be a central part of the bid team," said Lewis, who also won an Olympic bronze medal at Atlanta in 1996 and two Commonwealth titles.

"With our world-class facilities, a fantastic multi-cultural city and absolute commitment to the athlete experience, I look forward to presenting London as the city for the IAAF World Championships in 2017."

Gardener, who is also a Board member of UK Athletics, is one of Britain's most successful ever sprinters who won four consecutive European indoor 60m titles between 2000 and 2007 and the world indoor 60m gold medal in 2004.

"I am extremely proud to be appointed vice-chairman of the Athlete Commission and I want to ensure that the world's best athletes have the chance to experience the passion, enthusiasm and support that I have always felt when competing in London," he said.

"I look forward to working with Denise and the rest of the team to support what we believe is a strong bid."

UK Athletics chairman Ed Warner is hoping that the invovlement of athletes of the calibre of Lewis and Gardener will help give London the edge over its only rival Doha.

Both athletes were also involved as ambassadors for London's successful campaign to host the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics, with Lewis being part of the team that travelled to Singapore in 2005 to present the final bid.

"I am delighted to welcome both Denise and Jason onto the bid team and believe their perspective will add significant value to our campaign," said Warner.

"They have both competed at the highest level and know what it takes to break records, that insight is crucial if we're to fulfil our promise to deliver an athlete centred bid. "

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