OLYMPIC athlete Lynsey Sharp has launched a blistering attack on sporting chiefs after she was told she could not cross a running track to train at Meadowbank for health and safety reasons.
When the 22-year-old turned up to train at the stadium yesterday, she was first told the groundsman was off and to come back later.
Then when she returned, she was told she could not use the 400m outdoor track because it was icy.
She asked if she could use the grass in the middle of the track to train on, but Lynsey said she was told that was not allowed for health and safety reasons, as she would have to cross a potentially slippy stretch of track measuring just a few feet to reach it.
The edict prompted the track star to unleash a volley of scathing tweets.
Speaking exclusively to the Evening News, she slammed sport training facilities in Edinburgh as “a million miles” behind Glasgow – and said it was no surprise many athletes chose to train elsewhere.
“Every other track in Scotland will be open tonight despite the cold weather, but I can’t use the one ten minutes from my house. It’s a constant battle, it just seems like there’s always something,” she said.
She said it was not the first time she had had problems using the facilities at the stadium and called for a change in attitude “at the highest levels” to the way the city caters for sports people and enthusiasts.
She said: “One Sunday a month you can’t get on the track because they have an antiques fair, they also have other fairs that mean you can’t use it, or it’s closed for football, or it’s closed for the fireworks.
“It seems like they’re more interested in making money with these indoor events than they are in supporting actual athletes.
“It’s the only track of its kind in Edinburgh and this is what we have to contend with? It really feels like they are just not interested.”
Lynsey, the daughter of former Olympic sprinter Cameron Sharp, reached the semi-finals of the women’s 800m at London 2012. .
She revealed her mother Carol will be attending a parliamentary debate next week on the Commonwealth Legacy, adding: “I believe the issue with Meadowbank is going to be raised, but it really goes much deeper than that.
“I realise Glasgow has the Games, but Edinburgh genuinely is a million miles behind them when it comes to catering to sports people. It feels like there is a distinct lack of interest in sport at the highest levels of politics and government here. Edinburgh is simply not interested in any sport other than football, all the attention and funding is given to the arts, and this is something that has to change.”
Independent Lothians MSP Margo MacDonald said she had “100 per cent sympathy with Lynsey’s total frustration”. She said: “There is absolutely no doubt the running track facilities should have been fixed long before now.
“I think the basic problem is money. The sports budget has understandably mostly gone to Glasgow because they have the Commonwealth Games, There have been big efforts in Edinburgh, but we’ve not had anything like the resources Glasgow has.”
A spokesman from Edinburgh Leisure said: “There has been particularly cold weather recently and the frost on the track was so severe it rendered it unusable. It had been gritted, but due to the severity of the weather was still deemed unsafe. The grass in the middle of the track has been used as a football pitch and this made it an unsafe surface for running. Customer safety is of paramount importance to us.” The use of an indoor concourse was offered as an alternative, Edinburgh Leisure said.
‘We have to talk’
City council culture and leisure vice convener Norma Austin Hart has vowed to organise a meeting between Lynsey Sharp and Edinburgh Leisure to help meet the Olympic runner’s training demands.
She said: “We’re really sympathetic to her very specialised training needs, and I think Meadowbank also has a hard job in trying to balance all the different demands on it, health and safety as well as the demands to maintain a large, complex public building.”
STADIUM FUTURE STILL UNCERTAIN
Meadowbank Stadium still faces an uncertain future – four years after plans to build a new £25 million facility fell through.
The project ground to a halt after it was discovered that land previously valued at £17m, which was to be sold to fund the work, was only likely to fetch £5m.
Since then the council has injected £1.4m to fund essential repairs and maintenance. It is hoped that this will be enough to keep the facility going until a more permanent solution is found.
In August, city leisure leader Councillor Richard Lewis said: “The success of the Olympics has put the focus back on it. Now is the chance to see if there’s any money that can be used to improve it.”
Earlier this year, concerns were voiced about the potential sale of parts of the stadium amid talks about creating a new home for Edinburgh Rugby on the site.