Ed Warner: Commonwealth Games bids should use London Stadium for athletics

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London's Olympic Stadium is "a perfect athletics venue"
London's Olympic Stadium is "a perfect athletics venue"
13 August 2017 5:45PM

Athletics boss Ed Warner believes Liverpool and Birmingham's Commonwealth Games 2022 bid would be enhanced if they let London host the athletics.

Warner, who will step down from his role as UK Athletics chairman after the 2017 World Championships, claims the London Stadium is the ideal venue and that hundreds of millions of pounds would be saved if it was used for the Commonwealth Games.

"It's a perfect athletics arena," Warner told BBC 5 Live's Sportsweek. "Anybody who knows their athletics says 'wow!' - the shape, the sight lines.

"If I was the leader of either the Liverpool bid, which is looking to put a temporary track into the home of Everton Football Club, or the Birmingham bid, which is looking to significantly upscale the annex on the stadium, I'd be ringing (London Mayor) Sadiq Khan saying 'do you know what? Can we have the athletics in London and we'll do everything else?'

"Why is that? Because the facility is there. I spoke to a civil servant the other day who is heavily involved in this Commonwealth Games bid and he said, and this was his phrase, he was going to be rinsing the Treasury for half a billion pounds to put on an English Commonwealth Games.

"My answer to that is save a load of money, use this amazing facility, the best in the world, and make it an English bid."

When asked why Liverpool or Birmingham should let London take the blue riband athletics events, Warner said: "Because it's so expensive to build an athletics facility.

"If you're in Liverpool just for 10 days of athletics I think it's money down the drain. The age of austerity people keep talking about, let's spend our money more wisely."

Warner said the chances of success for either Liverpool or Birmingham's bid to stage the 2022 Commonwealth Games would improve significantly if they included London Stadium as their athletics venue.

"I think it would knockout the other one," he added. "I think the two of them should be moving pretty swiftly to make that call because maybe the first one to make the call gets in the box-seat and has the knockout bid."

Warner, who has spent the last decade in his role as UK Athletics chief, also defended world 10,000 metre champion Mo Farah's decision not to talk to some sections of the media in the build-up to the World Championships.

Farah, who had to settle for a silver medal in the 5,000 metres in London on Saturday night, said last month that he was fed up of being dragged into doping controversies.

The 34-year-old's coach, Alberto Salazar, is currently being investigated by the United States Anti-Doping Agency.

"That investigation has been going on for over two years," Warner said. "Until it's completed that suspicion and scrutiny will persist and for me scrutiny is absolutely right."

But Warner said he did not think Farah was wrong to duck pre-tournament interviews, adding: "No because for me, ultimately, the outcome is what happens on the track and does he win medals, and whatever it takes to get to that point is the key thing.

"I don't think it was wrong because he did what was right for him to go and win a gold medal and a silver medal."

Warner's claim that Liverpool and Birmingham's chances of hosting the 2022 Commonwealth Games would be improved if they let London host the athletics was not welcomed by Birmingham's bid team.

Birmingham 2022 told Press Association Sport their bid would leave the city with a lasting legacy.

"Birmingham's 2022 Commonwealth Games bid includes an enhanced and refurbished Alexander Stadium with improved competition, training and community facilities," a spokesperson said.

"The number of permanent seats will be increased to 20,000, with the ability to increase to over 40,000 through flexible temporary seating.

"The refurbishment will create an international standard sports venue and provide a long-term regional competition and training facility for athletics, as well as multi-use spaces that will benefit local sports clubs, schools and the local community."