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New Wembley expansion plans explored

BACKERS OF the new £475M national stadium at Wembley this week decided to explore two options for increasing the capacity of the 90,000 venue to between 101,000 and 103,000.

This will enable Britain to make a credible bid to host the 2012 Olympic Games.

Sports minister Kate Hoey discussed the issue on Tuesday at a meeting with developer Wembley National Stadium Ltd, Lottery grant administrator Sport England and the British Olympic Association.

Options include adding an 11,000 to 13,000 tier to the top level of the stadium at a cost of £30M. Alternatively, £8M could be spent on increasing lower tier capacity by 13,000 by flattening the rake.

The expansion options will push capacity for athletics events to about 80,000. This is thought to be the optimum size for a venue capable of staging Olympic opening and closing ceremonies.

The issue came to a head this week because of pressure to push through the planning application in time for next year's decision on the venue for the 2006 football World Cup.

But a spokesman for Sport England, which administers the project's £100M Lottery grant, dismissed the capacity increase as a waste of time. He pointed out that the new Wembley would be 10 years old by the time of the 2012 Olympics.

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