In the six years since Ligue 1 Olympique Lyonnais Owner Jean-Michel Aulas hatched a plan to build a stadium in the east of the Lyon, France, the €400M ($522M) project "turned into a political football dividing local officials, environmentalists, fans and residents," according to Paul Betts of the FINANCIAL TIMES. Aulas "has finally clinched the contract with Vinci construction group to build the 58,000-seat stadium in time to host the European championships" in '16. An atypical figure in corporate France and more akin to a Silicon Valley entrepreneur, Aulas, 64, "started his first business when only 19." He founded software company Cegid, which specializes in accounting and fiscal services. Football was "his other big passion." In '87, he "was asked to help restore the fortunes of Olympique Lyonnais." He "rid the club of its debts, reorganised its management and, over two decades, transformed it into one of the richest in Europe." Aulas "did not see himself so much as a traditional football club boss but as an entrepreneur having developed a new business model for the sport." He "is focusing on his new stadium, which will involve the construction of two hotels, a leisure centre and office buildings." The project "will give Lyon a huge economic boost as well." Yet Aulas "still has to persuade the banks to lend him" €200M ($261M) to help finance the grand venture. He said, "In France there is a cultural problem. Winners are not popular" (FINANCIAL TIMES, 3/10).
British Olympic Association Chair Sebastian Coe "will keep a close eye on the future of athletics" in Sheffield with the Don Valley Stadium track due to close in September, according to Laura Williamson of the London DAILY MAIL. Coe, who grew up in the city, insisted that the decision "was not a slight on the Olympic legacy" and said the plans to refurbish nearby Woodbourn Road were "actually quite thoughtful." Don Valley, "the second largest track and field facility in the country," will close later this year after Sheffield City Council opted to save £700,000 ($1.05M) a year as part of £50M ($75M) of cuts. Coe said, "My own instinct is if Sheffield are not committing to international track and field then I can understand why a 25,000-seater arena that costs £700,000 a year to maintain is a drain on the resources." Coe also admitted that the BOA "may not appoint" a new CEO after the departure of Andy Hunt, who resigned last month. Coe said, "We are still looking at all sorts of things. We’ve got a very good management team in there that’s doing an extremely good job" (DAILY MAIL, 3/11).