Nearly 20 years after Sheffield staged World Student Games the final bill is revealed - £650m - and there’s still half to pay

World Student Games, Don Valley Stadium, Sheffield
World Student Games, Don Valley Stadium, Sheffield
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THE final bill to Sheffield taxpayers from the World Student Games 20 years ago will be an “eyewatering” £650 million and won’t be paid off for another 13 years, The Star can reveal.

Less than half the debt - £296m - has been repaid so far and annual repayments of up to £30m will continue to eat into Sheffield Council’s budget until 2024.

The total, which increased dramatically through refinancing processes, is more than four times the original £147m cost of building venues for the 1991 Games.

Although Sheffield Arena and Ponds Forge - major facilities provided by the Games - have proved assets for the city, others have not.

A sports hall on the Manor was bulldozed when the old Waltheof School was redeveloped into Park Academy.

Mike Corden, chair of City of Sheffield Athletic Club whose members use Don Valley Stadium and Woodbourn Road athletics track, said: “We have the best athletics facilities in the UK but, if you asked me as a taxpayer whether the amount spent was a good idea, the answer has to be no.

“The scale for Don Valley was beyond belief and the construction cost, around £30m, eye-watering.

“At the time, Crystal Palace in London was the largest venue, holding 17,000 people but Don Valley was built to hold 25,000.

“You can’t get 5,000 or 6,000 people to an athletics event these days.

“It is reasonable to ask why such an amount of debt was taken on,” he said.

Sheffield Council’s ruling Lib Dems revealed the full extent of the World Student Games debt for the first time.

Council leader Paul Scriven said: “My job would have been much easier without having to hand over a huge amount of taxpayers’ money each year to cover Labour’s legacy of debt from the World Student Games.

“The economic benefit of events held at venues such as Ponds Forge and the Don Valley Stadium is £6m a year - dwarfed by the interest bill.”

Total repayments will be £100m more than planned when the loan was last refinanced in 2000.

But Sheffield South East MP Clive Betts, leader of Sheffield Council when the Games were held, said: “The final refinancing plan was approved when the Lib Dems were last in power, between 1999 and 2002.

“Labour borrowed money to provide facilities that are extremely well-used, and an asset for Sheffield.”