BRITAIN WILL never host the Olympic Games unless a Minister for Wembley is appointed to oversee strategic development of the area around the new English National Stadium, the Government was warned this week.
Calls for action came from developer Wembley National Stadium, the London Borough of Brent and independent experts. They were made on the eve of publication yesterday (Wednesday) of a report by the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee which, as NCE went to press, was expected to name London as the only realistic host for the Games.
Supporters of an Olympic bid for London claim that to meet International Olympic Committee requirements the area around the stadium needs additional sports facilities such as a warm-up track and improved transport links. The current Wembley re-development plan only includes the stadium itself and Olympic Way, the road to it.
Stadium expert Simon Inglis, the author of Football Grounds of Great Britain, said the debate over Wembley's future should be extended beyond the bounds of the National Stadium.
'The fact that the future of the twin towers is unresolved after three years shows the development of the stadium has been done on an ad-hoc basis,' he said. 'It needs a more strategic approach. It needs Tony Blair to bang a few heads together.'
Brent Council has already written to Sports Minister Tony Banks and Dome Minister Lord Falconer suggesting the area as an Olympic venue and calling for a Minister for Wembley. Railtrack, London Underground, the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions, the Department of Culture, Media and Sport and Brent Council would all have to be brought together under the wider development plans.
Deputy leader of Brent Ann John said it would cost about £30M to upgrade transport infrastructure to the necessary standard. Brent would seek the money from private developers once the planning application was submitted.
A spokesman for the DCMS said English Partnerships was putting together a task force to look at the strategic development of the area, but English Partnerships' director for London Tony Winterbottom denied this.
'We are interested in Wembley as part of our normal business and when people decide what to do with it we can respond. At the moment the task force has only been mooted,' he said.
Marketing director for Wembley National Stadium Chris Palmer told NCE: 'The task force might work but it probably won't have the resources. It's about more than just infrastructure. I don't think it will solve the Olympics problem.'