MP blasts City Council leader over Lincoln Olympic Torch party location

Photo (L-R): Lincoln MP Karl McCartney and City Council Leader Ric Metcalfe

Lincoln’s Conservative MP Karl McCartney has criticised incoming Labour City Council Leader Ric Metcalfe over the location of an overnight party to be held for the Olympic torch’s arrival in the city on June 27, 2012.

The MP has all but confirmed the location of the celebrations to be held at Yarborough Sports Ground, which the Lincolnshire Echo first reported on Thursday, citing unnamed sources close to the event organisers.

McCartney said: “Following various high level discussions I had in April, in both London and Lincoln with senior representatives of various organisations such as the District, County and the City Councils, I was told that as Lincoln was to be showcased around the world, that the Torch should be displayed in the best location.

“Therefore to host the Olympic Torch anywhere else than in the environs of the Castle, Castle Square and Cathedral will be a vast disappointment to the people of our city and Lincolnshire, and will certainly undersell the beautiful attractions we have in Lincoln and our county.

He then went on to blast new Labour Leader of the City Council Ric Metcalfe, who took control from Conservatives after four years in a narrow victory in the local elections earlier this month:

“Not only has the new Labour Leader of the City Council (who no longer lives in the city) not had the courtesy to inform me of his drastic and disastrous change of plan, but he has badly underestimated the opportunity presented to Lincoln.

“This decision by the Labour Leader and his colleagues seems to me to be particularly narrow-minded and very short-sighted.

“Whilst the Yarborough Leisure Centre may well have many attractions, and my family and I often use its facilities, I know that the international showcasing of the Castle, Magna Carta, Cathedral and Bailgate would have brought a greater number of tourists, visitors and businesses to Lincoln and, in turn, long-term sustainability and benefits to the existing businesses and people who reside in our beautiful city.”

City of Lincoln Council has not said where the party in question will be held, with an official announcement promised later this summer.

Councillor Ric Metcalfe was not immediately available for comment.

For the Wednesday announcement of the Olympic Flame route, Metcalfe said: “We will be working hard to ensure the evening celebration brings out all that is great about this city and we want there to be a real focus on the young people of Lincoln who will have the opportunity to be part of the legacy of the 2012 Olympics forever.”

— Later update: Chris Dunbar, Communications Manager at the City of Lincoln Council, said: “We’re looking forward to welcoming the Olympic Flame to Lincoln and seeing it pass through many of our communities, as well as spending time in the business and historic areas of the city. We’re now planning a great evening event for the people in Lincoln and we’ll be able to confirm the venue in line with the national announcements later in the summer.”

Unsuitable venues

Lincolnshire Echo‘s “sources close to the organisation of the torch’s visit” are offering some insight into why Yarborough Sports Centre was the chosen location for the Olympic Flame visit celebrations.

Lincoln Castle is said to be unsuitable because it cannot accommodate the giant truck used to move the special Olympic stage around the county. The idea of lifting the truck over the castle walls was dropped due to safety concerns.

The other location considered was the Sincil Bank stadium and the West Common, which were either too expensive or too difficult to organise.