Crystal Palace eyed for return as London's new home of athletics with revamp to lure in international events

Fears of south London site being bulldozed allayed by plan for huge revamp

A rundown Crystal Palace is being targeted as the new home for athletics in London with the aim of luring international events back to the venue by 2028.

The venue hosted a flurry of big names in its heyday ranging from Seb Coe to Usain Bolt but has began to decay in recent years.

Work has already begun to patch up the track as a temporary measure ahead of a major revamp with millions having been offered by Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, and the hope of further investment from other bodies in the wider Crystal Palace National Sports Centre.

Ben Woods, a local resident and architect who worked on London 2012, was brought into the project at the start of the year, and said his target was for it to be “five years into the future for international events”.

There had been fears from local residents and athletics training groups that either the indoor or outdoor athletics tracks might be bulldozed.

But Woods insisted: “The stadium is staying, athletics is staying, the indoor track is staying. And we’re really excited about the potential for the stadium as a 365-day a year athletics home.”

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There is a proposal to expand the current athletics facility with an additional 200-metre track open to the public, which could be used by elite athletes as a warm-up track when it came to international meetings at the site. In the past, a sandy hockey pitch has been used as a warm-up track for the likes of Bolt.

Woods also said he was confident the training groups on site could unearth the next Bolt from London’s population in the future.

Of the future for the site in the city, he said: “There’s a desire in the sporting community to say that London, as a population of nine million people, should have an athletics stadium that is there for 365 days a year. That’s the offer.

“We’ve got to that stage and we want to bring it back to life. We’ve got some capital funding but it’s the 'what if' question. It’s really dependent on others coming on that journey and so far the mood music has been very positive.

“The Olympic Stadium is a fantastic venue. I was at the Diamond League last year but at the end of the day it’s a one-off event. What about the rest of the year? That’s where we see Crystal Palace really fitting into that infrastructure.

“A key home for London athletics and the wider region, and we’re talking to various bodies at the moment about how we make that a reality.”

As well as revamping the athletics facilities at the site, the proposals also including repairing two of the four pools on site, which have been closed since major cracks were discovered.