A former athlete standing for the Greens in the forthcoming city council election has condemned plans to demolish Meadowbank Stadium and move facilities for athletes to the other side of the city. 
City of Edinburgh Council plans to build a new sports complex at Sighthill to replace Meadowbank, where the site will be sold for housing.
During a heated debate on BBC Radio Scotland, leader of the Labour group on Edinburgh City Council, Councillor Donald Anderson, said that Meadowbank Stadium, which hosted the 1970 and 1986 Commonwealth Games, was “past its sell-by date” and could not be refurbished.
But Alison Johnstone, a former longstanding member of Edinburgh Southern Harriers, said it was Labour that was past its sell-by date â€“ not the stadium.
She said that the decision had more to do with financial gain from developers than with sporting and community needs.
“Why can the Commonwealth Pool be refurbished, when Meadowbank, built at the same time, apparently cannot?â€? said Ms Johnstone.
“There is very little sense in having two running tracks within two miles of each other, at Sighthill and Saughton â€“ and no such facility in the east of the city.”
“There is a pattern emerging, where council-owned facilities are neglected, the land sold off to developers and some limited version of what was previously there given to the community. Can Councillor Anderson confirm that in 30 yearsâ€™ time this won’t occur again, at Sighthill?”
Leading sports writer Doug Gillion contributed to the debate. He cited stadia in Berlin, Helsinki, Los Angeles and Stockholm which were all older than Meadowbank but had been refurbished and continued to be used for major sporting events. He said the decision to demolish Meadowbank was â€œpreposterousâ€? and that it had been inadequately maintained.
Bill Walker, Senior Coach with City of Edinburgh athletic club, accused the council of not maintaining the stadium for 20 years. He had consulted architects, who had told him the stadium would be â€˜easyâ€™ to refurbish.
Ms Johnstone added: “It’s unsustainable to have athletes travelling across the city. The time spent travelling will be too great for many, when added to school and homework duties. Sport may have to give.
“This is madness, given our growing obesity problem and appalling national health record. Meadowbank can be upgraded. It’s more important that we have good, local grassroots facilities â€“ we seem to be losing too many of these and there seems to be an obsession with elitist facilities.
“Edinburgh Southern Harriers, based at Meadowbank Stadium, are the best club in the UK, as they proved in winning last seasonâ€™s UK League. Many members of this club come from Eastern and Central Edinburgh and find travel to Meadowbank far easier than reaching the west of the city â€“ up to a 12-mile round journey.”
“Meadowbank has excellent transport links from the city centre, which is a factor in attracting UK league meetings to the city.”
“Meadowbank was used by the former European 3000m champion, Yvonne Murray, who travelled from her home in Musselburgh to use Meadowbank. And Liz McColgan won the Commonwealth Games 10000m title on this track.”
Alison Johnstone urges people to send messages of support to firstname.lastname@example.org.
NOTES TO EDITORS:
1. Alison Johnstone is standing in Meadows/Morningside in the forthcoming City of Edinburgh Council election. A photograph of Alison is attached. She is available for interview – contact Jill Boulton for details.