By Duncan Mackay at City Hall in London

London 2012_Olympic_Stadium_with_Sebastian_Coe_and_Hannah_England_October_3_2011October 19 - Sebastian Coe today passionately defended the decision to retain the athletics track at the Olympic Stadium after London 2012 and hit out at crtics who claim that the facility will be under-utilised.

Lyeton Orient chairman Barry Hearn is among the leading sceptics who claim that there is not enough demand to justify keeping the track in a 60,000 capacity stadium.

"There is no lack of demand for top-class track and field in this country," the double Olympic 1500 metres champion told the London Assembly here.

Coe claimed that Britain's successful annual two-day Diamond League meetings at Crystal Palace shows there is sufficient interest in the sport.

"London is now the only city that stages two of those back-to-back," he said.

"We not only sell out for every one of those meetings but we would also probably be able to sell five times that number of tickets.

"The capacity there is about 16,000 organisers could probably sell five times that number of tickets.

"Crowds of between 50,000 and 70,000 fans regularly international athletics events in European cities like Paris and Brussels.

"If we have a larger venue we would fill that venue, there is no question about that.

"You have only got to go to Crystal Palace for any of those Diamond League meetings to know how many people turn up on spec hoping to get tickets.

"Let's not run away with the idea that track and field is a sport that is not supported - it is a very popular sport."

Maintaining a track would not only fulfil a pledge made during London's successful bid to host the Games, it should also strengthen the city's attempt to stage the 2017 World Athletics Championships, Coe claimed.

"I do think it is very important that we maintain a commitment to an Olympic legacy and to a mix of tenancies in there," he said.

"That is a commitment we made and I think we should see it through."

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