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No funding problem for new athletics stadium, says Smith

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Culture secretary Chris Smith has hit back after suggestions that FaulknerBrowns' planned national athletics stadium that will host the 2005 World Championships, unveiled last week, could founder through lack of funds.

Smith played down rumours of funding problems for the project which could cost up to £87 million. The stadium has secured £72 million, mostly from the National Lottery, but the Department for Culture, Media and Sport is in talks to try to raise the remaining £15 million.

'It may involve the private sector, and we aim to secure the remainder sooner rather than later, ' Smith told the AJ.He also brushed aside London mayor Ken Livingstone's refusal last week to underwrite the event and possibly expose the Greater London Authority to liabilities.

'He doesn't have the power to sign the documents because of the international nature of the event, ' Smith said. 'We are working on how best to go forward and are talking to the International Amateur Athletics Federation. But it will be done.'

The National Athletics Centre at Picketts Lock in Lea Valley, Enfield, will have 43,000 seats for the World Championships but will be reduced to 20,000 after the event. It includes an indoor 200m running track and outdoor training areas.

Outline planning permission will be sought in May and building should start next summer.

When finished in 2004 the stadium's curved roof will sweep over the indoor centre on one side.

Temporary seats will rake up on the opposite side, while a plaza will form the front entrance and drop-off point for coaches. Hospitality areas will be built under the permanent seats, bolted on to 'banana-shaped steel trusses'.

FaulknerBrowns said it would keep an existing golf course and reservoir. 'The golf course will form a lung of space to hold marquees and media areas during the championships, ' said lead architect Bill Stoner.

The outfit beat Miller Partnership, Arup Associates, BDP, Burland TM and Ward McHugh Associates in the design competition.

Ward McHugh chairman Terry Ward welcomed the winner's 'unusual and aerodynamic' design as a break from the hackneyed 'pincushion or hedgehog' look. But he said: 'I'm worried about scale and how it will appear when it is compressed to 20,000 seats. It's a lot to ask of a designer, and Wembley has gone through a horrific process of trying to reconfigure itself after football events.'

David Moorcroft, UK Athletics chief executive, said: 'There's nothing like this in the world: it was designed for athletics and will be retained for athletics after 2005.' He denied whispers that Tottenham Hotspur FC wanted to be stakeholder.

Sports minister Kate Hoey said the new stadium may carry a sponsor's name to raise money.

Lottery-funded projects are not usually allowed to give naming rights to private firms.

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