Anger as Birmingham Council Plan Charges to Watch US/Jamaica Train

February 24, 2011

A suggestion made by Birmingham City Council Leader, Mike Whitby, to charge local residents to watch top athletes like Usain Bolt and Allyson Felix train there before London 2012 to help cover a US$345m budget cut, has angered many in the area..

Whitby led negotiations which saw Birmingham sign deals with the athletics teams from Jamaica and the United States to set-up pre-Games training camps there next year, representing somewhat of a coup as the two countries are arguably the most high-profile athletics teams competing at London.

Whitby has estimated that the deals could be worth up to $24m to Birmingham’s economy, with the US team set to be based at Alexander Stadium while Jamaica are to train at the University of Birmingham.

Whitby, who represents the Conservative party in the UK, wants to use the opportunity to raise extra cash to help offset the massive cut in funding Birmingham City Council is facing, and stated: “We need a more effective way of generating revenue.

“We have a tremendous capacity to increase revenue. 

“We have the Olympic training camps coming next year which is a fantastic opportunity.

“We are looking at charging to watch the athletes train.”

Perry Barr Labour MP Khalid Mahmood, who represents communities surrounding Alexander Stadium, has led opposition to the controversial plan, telling the Birmingham Post: “It’s absolutely disgraceful.

“This is a scrooge measure by this Council which will deter ordinary people in Birmingham from engaging with the Olympics.

“How are we supposed to encourage and inspire young people from poorer backgrounds to enjoy sport if we exclude them when these athletes are on their doorstep?

“The people have already paid for the Olympics through their taxes. 

“This should be abandoned before it goes too far.”

Whitby later claimed to insidethegames that the suggestion had been just an idea and not one he planned to pursue, stating: “Quite rightly we will and do look at a whole range of revenue generating ideas but this is not something we will be taking forward.”