Athletics News

What is the future of Crystal Palace?

What is the future of Crystal Palace?

The Crystal Palace is an iconic stadium for our sport. It is also in terrible condition. Stuart Weir wrote this important piece about the options for our friends at British Athletics. Does Crystal Palace have a position in the future of British Athletics? 

Crystal palace

There was an article in the London Times recently about the National Sports Centre at Crystal Palace which used to be the home of track and field in London but which has now fallen into disrepair.  It was a timely contribution to the debate about the future home of British elite athletics.

Built in 1964 on the site of the former Crystal Palace Park which had hosted the FA Cup finals (Americans, think Superbowl!) 1895-1914. The athletics stadium had a capacity of 15,000 to 24,000 and hosted athletics for years including the London Grand Prix from 1999-2012.  The list of stadium record-holders reads like a who’s who of our sport: Yelena Isanbayeva (3 world records), Michael Johnson, Usain Bolt, Haile Gebrselassie, Javier Sotomayor, Sanya Richards-Ross.

The Times reported: “Sadly, the centre has fallen into a serious state of disrepair. The main swimming pools have been empty for three years. Towards the end of last year, safety concerns regarding the stadium floodlights forced its temporary closure. The indoor track is peppered with pigeon droppings and the roof is leaking. When there is a heavy downpour, the tired old building floods at one end”. 

2012 London Olympic Stadium, photo by Getty Images for British Athletics

When London hosted the 2012 Olympics, international athletics moving to the London Stadium, now also home to West Ham United (soccer), marked the start of a serious decline. This was partly to demonstrate the Olympic legacy but it also resulted in the old Crystal Palace stadium being “left to rot.”

The timing of the Times article was pertinent as there is an ongoing debate as to where should be the home of track and field in the UK. The London Stadium (the 2012 Olympic Stadium) is mainly used by West Ham United who play about 25 games there each year (August to May). There is a contractual agreement that the stadium must be available for athletics for 50 years but mainly during the month of July. August when the Anniversary Games (Diamond League) was usually held, is during the soccer season.

Apparently converting the stadium from soccer to track and back – taking out seats etc – costs $3.6 million per time.  This has led to…

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