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Diamond League to make London Stadium return after four-year absence

UK Athletics has confirmed that the Diamond League series will return to London Stadium for the first time in four years in 2023.

The event will take place on July 23, marking the first time the stadium has hosted athletics since the 2019 edition. UK Athletics will also host a Festival of Athletics from July 20-23 to engage the local community, schools and clubs in a series of events.

London Stadium did not host a Diamond League meet in 2020 due to COVID-19, while the 2021 and 2022 events were held in Gateshead and Birmingham, respectively. Birmingham hosted its event at the Alexander Stadium ahead of the Commonwealth Games.

The announcement comes after reports emerged in May that UK Athletics was in talks with London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) over a settlement deal to end its long-term agreement to stage events at London Stadium.

The Telegraph reported that preliminary discussions had taken place between UK Athletics and LLDC, which owns and operates the stadium, over the governing body ending its 50-year agreement to stage events such as the Anniversary Games, which forms part of the Diamond League series.

A settlement payment of between £10m (€11.8m/$12.1m) and £15m was said to have been proposed but the news announced yesterday (Monday) ensures London Stadium will host at least one more Diamond League meeting next year.

UK Athletics and the LLDC were last year embroiled in a dispute over the staging of the 2021 Anniversary Games. The event was eventually relocated to Gateshead, with the LLDC paying UK Athletics £1.8m in compensation after deeming that it could not justify the cost of converting London Stadium into athletics mode.

London Stadium was built as the centrepiece of the 2012 Olympic Games but now primarily serves as the home of Premier League football club West Ham United. The club has increased the capacity of the stadium to 62,500 for the 2022-23 season.

Next year’s Diamond League meeting will take place ahead of the World Athletics Championships in Budapest the following month. It will also feature returning medalists from the World Para Athletics Championships, which are scheduled for Paris the week before.

Jack Buckner, UK Athletics chief executive, said: “We are excited to be bringing athletics back to London in 2023. Not only will it be the biggest athletics event in the world outside of the major championships, but our Festival of Athletics will ensure we can showcase the best of our sport to the wider community.

“It’s great to be working with LLDC and the London Stadium again in the build-up to a superb summer of athletics. Hosting the Diamond League within such an iconic market and venue is key to our aims to invest long-term in the health of our sport and event series. London Stadium is a key strategic platform for the athletes as well as our partners and sponsors and central to our commercial offer.”

Graham Gilmore, chief executive of London Stadium, added: “We are absolutely delighted to welcome athletics back to the stadium next summer, with the Diamond League sitting alongside our world-class calendar of events for 2023. In addition, the activities planned across the weekend of this prestigious meet will engage the whole community across Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, as we continue to deliver on the legacy of the 2012 Games.”

The Festival of Athletics will feature a return of the London Borough Connect Relays, as well as a sports day including races for young para athletes, and a Couch to 5k race around the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park finishing in the stadium. The ‘Legends Relay’ will also take place within the elite athletics programme.

In other news, the LLDC has reached a settlement with law firm Allen & Overy in relation to West Ham’s lease deal to play at London Stadium, the BBC has reported.

In October 2020, the LLDC and E20 Stadium launched a legal battle against Allen & Overy, which helped draft the venue’s 99-year lease deal with West Ham. The LLDC and E20 reportedly claimed that the law firm’s poor drafting of the agreement contributed to their difficult relationship with West Ham.

The LLDC had sued the firm for £12m but financial terms of the settlement have not been disclosed.

A statement issued by the LLDC and Allen & Overy and reported by the BBC said: “E20 Stadium LLP, London Legacy Development Corporation and Allen & Overy LLP have reached a resolution of the litigation between the parties concerning the March 2013 WHU Concession Agreement. The terms of the settlement are confidential.”

Image: andrewrendell/CC BY 2.0/Edited for size