ina Asher-Smith has called for British athletics to retain a permanent base in London, as the sport threatens to walk away from the capital.
UK Athletics have a 50-year agreement, signed in 2013, to turn the London Stadium into an athletics venue for one month each year amid West Ham’s lease of the ground, but initial talks have been held over bringing a premature end to the deal.
That could pave the way for the London 2012 Olympic venue to be turned into a football stadium full-time, while athletics would potentially relocate to Birmingham, where the newly re-built Alexander Stadium is already set to host this year’s UK leg of the Diamond League circuit, as well as the Commonwealth Games.
However, London-born Asher-Smith, who was a kit carrier at London 2012 before winning relay silver at the 2017 World Championships in the same stadium, called for the capital to remain a central part of the sport’s future.
“We’ve obviously got a really nice new stadium in Birmingham which I’ll be fortunate enough to try out next week [in the Diamond League], so I’m very excited for that and very excited for the Commonwealth Games,” she said.
“But I always think that London is the centre of sport in the UK and it would be amazing to have a base there and really use the London Stadium, particularly as it is the Olympic Stadium, it’s where the Anniversary Games has been. Obviously, all the other major sports have that base in London.”
Asher-Smith was speaking in Doha, where she is set to begin her season over 200m in tomorrow’s night’s Diamond League opener.
The 26-year-old is the reigning world and European champion in the event and will have the chance to defend both titles later this summer, in what is a jam-packed season featuring three major outdoor championships.
The British record holder confirmed she has put the hamstring injury which blighted her 2020 campaign and forced her to pull out of the individual events at the Olympics in Tokyo last summer behind her, and is intending to compete at all three of the worlds, Europeans and Commonwealths in some capacity.
“For British athletes, it’s the biggest season we’ve ever had,” she added. “For me, I’m focusing first and foremost on the World Championships and performing well there and then we will very much take everything in our stride. But I do aim to be performing at my best at all three.”