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All England Club courting favour for Olympic bid

All England Club courting favour for Olympic bid
June 25 2003
By Ashling O’Connor
Times online

THE All England Championships at Wimbledon are being used as a weapon in the charm offensive of the Olympic movement by the London 2012 campaign team, even though SW19 may not ultimately stage the tennis event if the capital’s bid is successful.

Jacques Rogge, the president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), will be wooed by the British Olympic Association (BOA) and the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) at the men’s final a week on Sunday. It is hoped that the most famous tournament in the world will be an impressive marketing vehicle for the London bid.

The prospect of the Olympic tennis event being played on the grass courts of the All England Club was hailed as a plus point for London in the battle for the hearts and minds of the 126 IOC members. Paris, one of London’s strongest rivals for 2012 Games, has said that it would stage the tennis on the clay courts of Roland Garros, venue of the French Open.

But some have serious doubts about using Wimbledon as an Olympic venue. The first problem is the distance between Wimbledon and Stratford, East London, where the bulk of the Games would take place. It is 15 miles and would take at least an hour for competitors to cover — double the IOC’s preferred maximum travelling time.

Secondly, there would be no infrastructure legacy. The All England Club is one of the most exclusive private members’ club in the world and not open to the public. Simon Clegg, the chief executive of the BOA, has suggested building a new facility in East London. Third, it would be impossible to stage the paralympic event on grass and would be politically unacceptable to hold it at a different venue.

The LTA is keen that the All England Club is put forward as a potential venue as a way of reaching out to the public beyond the two weeks of the championships at Wimbledon. It is understood that an internal feasibility study put the cost of staging the event at ?13 million. By comparison, a new tennis centre with a 10,000-capacity centre court in Sydney for the 2000 Games cost about ?15 million to build.

No final decision on individual venues for the London bid needs to be made until next summer. “Wimbledon was the basis of the original feasibility study, but now we have to go into the detailed analysis of individual venues,” John Scott, director of big events at UK Sport, said. “We are lucky that we already have a venue capable of hosting an Olympic event.”

Officials at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport said that all options remained open. “It has not been ruled out that a negotiation with Wimbledon would happen,” a spokesman said. “There is no legacy, but that is weighed against new capital costs. We have to ask what would happen to new courts afterwards.”


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