London drops 2015 world championships bid

London : A bid for London to host the 2015 world athletics championships was abandoned on Wednesday because of fears over a potential legal wrangle surrounding the future of the 2012 Olympic main stadium.

The decision leaves Beijing as the sole bidder and it is expected the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) will confirm the Chinese capital as host city when it meets later this month.

UKA Chairman Ed Warner said he was disappointed not to be pursuing the 2015 bid but said “we need to present the IAAF with a bid that is free of any uncertainties”.

The 2015 bid was ditched after it emerged the Olympic Park Legacy Company (OPLC), responsible for finding an anchor tenant for the 516 million pound ($828 million) main stadium after the Olympics, could find itself open to a legal challenge over its bidding process.

Olympic minister Hugh Robertson told reporters he had become aware of a possible legal problem two weeks ago.

The OPLC’s criteria only commits the winning bidder to provide an athletics legacy, not necessarily a track inside the main stadium.

The OPLC, a public sector not-for-profit company, will not make a decision on its preferred bidder until the turn of the year, with a lease agreement signed by the end of March, after the deadline for 2015 bids.

If a bidder wanted to move the track elsewhere they could argue the 2015 decision might disadvantage them by committing them to keeping the track where it was, leading to a claim for damages.

Premier League soccer club West Ham United have formally submitted a bid to take over the stadium, while rivals Tottenham Hotspur have teamed up with AEG, the U.S. operator of London’s O2 Arena, to mount a joint bid to lease it.

West Ham have agreed to keep the track while Tottenham have been reported as saying they would not.

The 2015 decision comes after a period of uncertainty over the bid’s financial viability.

Lawmakers suggested last month they could not underwrite its estimated 45 million pound costs at a time when the country was suffering the harshest spending cuts in generations as the government reined in a record peacetime budget deficit approaching 11 percent of GDP.

The taxpayer has already forked out a large chunk of the 9.3 billion pound bill for the 2012 Olympics and the country is to host the rugby World Cup in 2015 as well as bid for the soccer World Cup.

London was awarded the world athletics championships in 2005 but did not stage the event after the government abandoned plans to build a new stadium.

Robertson told Reuters shortly before the UKA announcement: “I think it is much better if you think there might be a problem, which is really the issue here, to address it early. The real damage to our reputation would be if we messed this up and got hauled through the High Court by one of the stadium bidders.”

IAAF President Lamine Diack said in a statement issued by UKA: “We fully understand and respect the reasons for UKA moving their bid from 2015 to 2017. We are delighted that London are still in the race.”

Bureau Report