Sadiq Khan pledges millions to revamp Crystal Palace National Sports Centre

Disrepair: The athletics stadium at the Crystal Palace National Sports Centre has declined into a sorry state  (AFP via Getty Images)
Disrepair: The athletics stadium at the Crystal Palace National Sports Centre has declined into a sorry state (AFP via Getty Images)

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has pledged millions of pounds for a new athletics hub at the Crystal Palace National Sports Centre.

The money – believed to be in the single millions – is being spent to revitalise a 15,000-seat stadium that used to be the home for elite athletics in London but has slowly gone to ruin with the track peppered with holes.

The revamp may take up to five years to reach completion but could prove the new home for the sport in the capital amid doubts over the sport’s long-term future at the London Stadium.

Campaigners welcomed the news after a decade-long fight and “so many false starts” but were still sceptical, warning it was potentially part of an early election push by Khan ahead of the next Mayoral vote in 2024.

Crystal Palace National Sports Centre opened in 1964 and used to host the London Grand Prix, featuring elite athletes ranging from Seb Coe to Usain Bolt during its prime.

Money had already been put aside to repair the swimming facilities at the centre but there were doubts over both the indoor and outdoor athletics tracks going forward. The mayor’s office said a planning application is expected to go in next year with building work beginning in 2025.

Mr Khan said: “Crystal Palace National Sports Centre is a historic and much-loved sporting and community facility where many UK sporting stars have started their careers and trained, but which is in need of major investment and refurbishment.

“I am completely committed to this once-in-a-generation redevelopment of the site which will secure its future for decades to come. While work continues apace on our vision for the long-term future of the centre, I am delighted to announce that we intend to make a number of early improvements that we hope will make a huge difference to users of the centre.

“Over the coming months, we will continue to work closely with key stakeholders - including sporting bodies and wider community groups - to deliver an outstanding venue that our capital and our country can be proud of.”

Campaign group Crystal Palace Sports Partnership welcomed Friday’s announcement while also sounding a cautionary note. Chairman John Powell said: “Obviously this is what we’ve wanted to hear for many years. We started on this path in 2014. There’s been a load of false starts since then, we’ve been in the starting blocks and been called back many times.

“This is a really positive announcement which we can only applaud. We’d heard so much negativity, about the indoor track being got rid of, that I was pleasantly surprised. We 100 per cent support what’s being proposed. This is the historic home of British athletics.

“But I hope this isn’t early electioneering. At the end of the day, Mr Khan is a politician, and we all know what politicians are like. The next thing I’m really hoping for is whoever is running for London Mayor against Khan, that that person signs up to pursuing the same line.”