IT USED to be “the envy of the UK” and attracted world famous names but now the athletics track at Cwmbran Stadium is banned from hosting competitions.
Newport’s European silver medallist and Team GB member Christian Malcolm described the news as “a big shame” after UK Athletics (UKA) decided to withdraw the competition licence for the track from the council.
The track fell below required safety levels after an inspection.
Mr Malcolm, who still trains on the track, said: “I have lots of great memories of athletics at the track. The Welsh Games used to be held there and I remember the likes of Linford Christie being there.
“To me, it was the best stadium in South Wales. It is a big shame.”
Torfaen council has said it will investigate costs of the required repair work and various funding routes for the track, which is also currently used around three times a week by Cwmbran Harriers, which has 140 members.
The track will still be allowed to be used for training.
Facilities and health and safety manager atUKAthletics Michael Hunt said: “UKA has an obligation to make sure track and field facilities reach a level that’s safe.
“Unfortunately at Cwmbran, the track surface has fallen below that level. It hasn’t come up to the required standard.”
Mr Hunt said UKA would also be providing assistance to try to help rectify the situation.
Chairman of Cwmbran Harriers Iain Jones said the track “used to be the envy of the UK”. He said: “It is a shame. But I am looking forward to working with the council to get the competition licence back.” Deputy leader of Torfaen council Cllr Lewis Jones said he was “disappointed” the UKA certificate had been withdrawn but pleased the track still meets training requirements.
He said:”We have liaised with the club and we will agree on a number of risk assessments that will allow training nights to carry on with minimal disruption.
We will investigate costs of the required repair work and various funding routes to make this possible. As the certificate has been withdrawn, UKA have confirmed that it will be reinstated if we are able to fund the required work.”
The Argus reported in 2008 how the stadium’s grandstand had to be closed after the council officers revealed they could not afford the £110,000 repair bill.
Stadium has hosted athletic stars
THE 10,500-capacity stadium has played host to some of British and World athletics’ biggest names.
In 1973, the track hosted a British League meet, where Olympic long-jump champion Lynn “the Leap” Davies competed for the final time before his retirement.
Britain’s greatest ever longjumper was competing in the colours of Cardiff AAC, for whom he ran the last leg of the sprint relay, sealing Cardiff’s win and eventually the British League Title. That was followed in 1980 when hit BBC TV show Superstars used the stadium as the venue for that year’s competition with judo gym-tests sensation Brian Jacks defeating Olympic decathlete Daley Thompson among others.
Four years later, legendary South African-born middle distance runner Zola Budd famously took to the track barefoot.
In front of a packed crowd, the then 18-year-old dominated the field to win the British 1500 metre title in 4 minutes and 4 seconds. In more recent years the stadium has played host to both the Welsh and UK athletics championships with athletes including Linford Christie, Colin Jackson, as well as Gwent Olympic sprinters Jamie Baulch and Christian Malcolm.
COMMENT: Sorry state at stadium
IT’S a crying shame that a venue which was once a real jewel in the crown, not just of Gwent, but also of Wales, has been allowed to fall into such a sorry state of disrepair.
The decision by UK Athletics to withdraw Cwmbran Stadium’s licence to host competitions is a devastating blow and should be seen as nothing short of an embarrassment.
The track is no longer deemed fit for purpose to host competitions. And an inspection this week has seen the licence withdrawn.
But this is not a deterioration which has happened overnight. As long ago as December 2011 it was reported that athletes and coaches were increasingly concerned about the state of the track, which once played host to some of the biggest names in British athletics.
The stadium was for many years seen as a first-class athletics venue. Nowvisitors would find it a shadowof its former self. The concrete cancer which led to the grandstand being condemned was bad enough. Nowthe final insult is the loss of the competition licence.
Training can continue at the site which is at least some comfort for the well-attended and hugely competitive Cwmbran Harriers.
Torfaen council says it is looking at what can be done, but given that it is in the throes of handing over all of its leisure services, including Cwmbran Stadium, to a trust we can’t see this being resolved any time soon.