Crystal Palace National Sports Centre, one of the most iconic sporting venues in Europe, may be facing an uncertain future, but local athletes are proving there is still massive demand for an albeit dilapidated facility.
Sprinters by the dozen flooded into the indoor running track last week (Wednesday 13th) to attend the second of two open meetings organised by the National Sports Centre’s host operators Greenwich Leisure Limited (GLL). The event was so popular it ran past 10pm, despite freezing conditions outside that would normally deter the hardiest of athletes!
Parents, coaches, families and athletes packed into the indoor straight to the point that one of the six racing lanes had to be taken out to accommodate them. There were some fine performances too, with each 60m competitor offered the opportunity to run twice in seeded races.
John Powell MBE, a coach at the centre for 40 years, and Chairman of Crystal Palace Sports Partnership, who are actively working to establish a long-term sustainable future for the centre, had several athletes involved. He said:
“It’s just what the doctor ordered. We work in an area known to house more demand for athletics than any another in the UK. Crystal Palace is the most accessible venue in terms of transport, with neighbouring tracks nothing like as easy to get to.”
“All credit to GLL for organising the event, and what a fantastic step forward in having automated results with electronic timing that meant that race results were displayed on the scoreboard usually seconds after each race had concluded – fantastic!”
“Had each meeting been publicised more effectively within the London athletics world, they could have attracted twice or three times as many people. I want to talk to the organisers about having open meetings in the stadium this summer too. They would be enormously popular, and what better time to hold such events in an Olympic year! Existing training nights are packed to the point you have to be really careful you don’t bump into one another!”
“That said, there are some basic repairs needed to make the venue properly serviceable for a full track meeting – I only hope there is some cash to facilitate that. We know that the South of England Athletics Association would dearly like to hold their championships here, but the place simply isn’t fit for purpose. It’s so sad, as it wasn’t that long ago I was watching my athletes in national and international competition here.”
“There is tremendous demand though – as proven last week – and I am confident that, with a little good will on the part of the authorities, Crystal Palace could yet host some terrific track and field meetings here for the extended local community in the future.”
Date of publication: 20 January 2016
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