London 2012 track stance is no political game: Bubka

Berlin: Sergei Bubka hit back at a British government minister on Tuesday for suggesting his outspoken comments about the fate of the London 2012 Olympic track were motivated by personal political aspirations.

The Ukrainian, senior vice president of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) and a member of the International Olympic Committee, urged London organisers last week to keep a promise to retain the track when the stadium is handed over to a new tenant.

In reply, Sport and Olympics minister Hugh Robertson linked Bubka`s stance to a possible bid by the world pole vault record holder for the IAAF presidency.

"I am extremely disappointed to read that my concerns about the London 2012 stadium are being linked to political aspirations," said Bubka in a statement.

"I spend much of my life travelling the world promoting athletics and seeing the impact it can have on communities, particularly young people."

"That was the vision (of London) that captured the imagination of the IOC in 2005, because it resonated so much with the importance of legacy," he added.

"However, it is vital that London keeps the promise it made in Singapore in 2005 to retain a running track to give future generations the opportunity to compete in a stadium where history will be made in less than two years` time."

The 80,000-seater Olympic stadium was designed to be stripped down to a 25,000-capacity athletics venue after the Games but there are fears that it would become unsustainable unless a high-profile tenant was found.

Bids from Premier League soccer clubs West Ham United and Tottenham Hotspur have been short-listed as the preferred tenants for the stadium after the Games.

However, the latter side, who have teamed up with entertainment giants AEG, are less keen to keep the track.

Robertson had said any track guarantee could leave London 2012 liable to legal action by the Tottenham bid.

"I would expect Sergei to be upset," he told the insidethegames website on Monday. "I mean he is unlikely to stand up and say "I`m a Spurs fan". But he`s also in the midst of running an election himself."

"Sergei is in an interesting position, I think, over this, in terms of how he is positioning himself for the future."

Bubka has not yet said whether he will run for the top athletics job next year.

London Games chief Sebastian Coe said last week the commitment made by London in 2005 would be reflected in the final decision on the stadium.

"I have nothing but respect and admiration for my friend Sebastian Coe," said Bubka.

"He pledged that an athletics track would remain at the Olympic Stadium after the Games and I have no doubt that he agrees with me in wanting to leave a landmark venue for future generations where they can dream about competing in athletics at the top level."

Bureau Report