Gunnell horrified at Spurs 2012 plans

LONDON - Britain's Sally Gunnell is "absolutely horrified" the main venue for the 2012 London Olympics could be knocked down to make way for a football stadium after the Games, the former gold medallist said on Monday.

The 1992 Barcelona Olympics 400 metres hurdles winner and former world record holder was the latest figure to voice concerns in an increasingly acrimonious battle over the future of the 496 million pounds stadium.

"What a waste, what a waste," she told reporters when asked about the prospect of the venue being bulldozed. "I cannot comprehend that somebody wants to pull it down.

"I am so passionate about athletics and want to build up its profile."

Premier League Tottenham Hotspur, in a joint bid with the U.S. entertainment giant AEG, want to knock the Olympic stadium down and replace it with a purpose-built football ground, saying a running track does not work for their fans.

To fulfil the London Olympic athletics legacy promise, made in 2005, Tottenham intend to revamp the Crystal Palace track and field venue in south London to host international events.

However, a growing number of athletics figures have criticised the plan, favouring a rival bid by Premier League West Ham United who in partnership with the local council say they will retain the track.


Seb Coe, chairman of the London 2012 Olympic Committee, said earlier this month Britain's reputation would be "trashed" if Tottenham's bid was successful.

He told reporters on Monday that it was right that people were discussing the stadium's legacy now rather than after the event.

"There is strength of feeling out there," he said. "I think it is right that... as a country we address legacy early on. We shouldn't be surprised when people go on discussing it, that's where it should be."

Gunnell said the stadium could host local and international athletics events and the prospect of it being pulled down could cast a pall over the Games.

The Olympic Legacy Company, in charge of the Olympic Park's legacy, has a third option to consider, the original bid plan to reduce the 80,000-seat stadium to 25,000 seats for local and international athletics events.

A decision is expected next month, with contracts signed by the end of the financial year.