22 June 2012
F1 to use London Olympic stadium?
Sochi may not be the only new Olympic city looking to use its centrepiece for F1 in future, if reports in the UK are to be believed.
Two imminent Olympic host cities have both hinted that elements of their infrastructure could be put to future use as potential F1 venues, even though both have obstacles to overcome before joining the schedule.
While the Black Sea resort of Sochi always planned to use its Winter Olympic park as the backdrop for an F1 circuit, reports are now suggesting that the main stadium could become an integral part of the layout, and now comes stories that London - which is due to stage this summer's Games - could integrate its centrepiece in a similar way should ambitious plans to land a race come to fruition.
While the UK already has a long-term contract to stage the British Grand Prix at Silverstone and the FIA and FOM are trying to move away from countries having two races, the Daily Telegraph newspaper confirms that a bid to stage F1 in the capital is among four accepted for consideration by the London Legacy Development Corporation as it looks beyond the Olympics and decides what to do with the various venues the Games have spawned.
According to the report, the bid was tabled by Intelligent Transport Solutions Ltd, based in east London, and has been discussed with F1 ringmaster Bernie Ecclestone, who has made no secret of his interest in seeing a race in the British capital, both before and after concluding terms with Silverstone. The proposal is to use both the stadium and the surrounding Olympic Park.
“This is a firm that happened to be bidding for use of the stadium, not to own it," Ecclestone, who denies being associated with the bid, told Telegraph Sport, "They came up with a scheme whereby F1 would race around the stadium, inside it, outside it. They wanted to make sure I would be interested.”
The bid, however, not only faces opposition from others interested in using the stadium after the Olympics, including West Ham United football club, but also from the various countries equally interested in attracting F1 to their shores. With a growing list of candidates wanting to host a round of the world championship, and rumours that next year's calendar could swell to 23 races, the FIA and Ecclestone-led Formula One Management have made it clear that it is not desirable to have two races in the same country. Although both venues have reported dissatisfaction with their current hosting fees, Valencia and Barcelona look likely to be forced into a date-sharing agreement as a result of that decision, making it unlikely that Silverstone and London could co-exist on the same calendar.
Sochi, meanwhile, has also revealed plans to route its F1 circuit through the stadium being built to stage the 2014 Winter Olympics, although work on the grand prix project has stalled while organisers ensure that its Olympic programme is not derailed. The Russian Grand Prix is scheduled to join the calendar in the same year as the Games, but several months after the assorted skaters, sliders and skiers have departed.
According to aroundtherings.com, lavish opening and closing ceremonies planned for the Sochi Games require a temporary roof and enclosures at the north and south ends of the stadium to accommodate staging infrastructure and technology, and these would have to be removed for F1 to race through the facility. The stadium, however, is already being earmarked as the new home of the city's football team, posing problems for future races to follow the same route.
The stadium is due for completion sometime in the middle of 2013, but there are already suggestions that Russia's first modern-day grand prix could be put back to 2015.
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