Crystal Palace to celebrate 60th anniversary

The Crystal Palace National Sports Centre is noted for its heritage, scale, and diversity – and has played host to multiple world firsts and record-breaking achievements. And sixty years after its conception, there will be a celebratory event which will include the opening of the newly refurbished and TrackMark accredited indoor and outdoor tracks.

As we honour its rich history and enduring legacy, centre operators Greenwich Leisure Limited (GLL) invite you all to join in commemorating this milestone, celebrating the countless athletes, coaches, and supporters who have contributed to its success. The Mayor will be officially opening the refurbished track.

If you have fond memories of competing, volunteering or officiating there, why not go down and see what's changed? Further down this page you can also read memories of their Crystal Palace days from others.

More about the anniversary event

TrackMark gained for the iconic venue

In 2021 a UKA TrackMark inspection highlighted that significant refurbishment work was needed and that triggered discussions between key stakeholders at the site and the Greater London Authority, which ultimately resulted in a significant programme of improvement for both the outdoor and indoor track and field and facilities.

Our Facilities and Planning Manager Ed Hunt said: "England Athletics would like to thank both the GLA and venue operator GLL, for their investment in the remedial works and long-term commitment to retaining and enhancing the athletics facilities at Crystal Palace. It is a great result for a truly iconic venue."

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funetics to help the Crystal Palace legacy continue

Our funetics team will also be present and running an Activation Zone to encourage the next generation into athletics, so that Crystal Palace is around for the next 60 years! funetics is growing in the London area with clubs incorporating the programme and local holiday camps. Our London Regional Chair Adrian Day, board member Lorna Boothe MBE, OLY and a number of our Regional Councillors and England Athletics staff will also be present for people to talk to.

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Under 17 men running at Crystal Palace in 2017

Memories of championships at Crystal Palace

We are sure many of those involved in athletics will have fond memories of the site - 1968 to 1987 was the AAA/WAAAs, and from 1999 to 2012 it hosted the London Grand Prix and South of England championships. It also hosted the prestigious English Schools' AA Track and Field championships in 1971, and the CAU Inter County Track & Field Championships in 1968, 1969 and from 1974 to 1976. The innovative Coca Cola meetings held on a Friday night from late 60s to early 80s were always a sell-out event with the world's best athletes competing.

Below you can read people's memories from these events.

CAU inter-counties championships

Chris Carter running at Crystal Palace

The CAU included a number of Athletics Greats among its winners over those years: Chris Carter, Dave Cropper, Steve Ovett, and Alan Pascoe on the track, long jumpers Lynn Davies and Alan Lerwill, and throwers Geoff Capes and Paul Dickenson.

Crystal Palace also hosted the highly regarded Emsley Carr Mile throughout the 1970s, and this included sub 4-minute miles from David Moorcroft and Seb Coe.

English Schools' AA

English Schools' AA commemorative mug

Stella Bacon became a track official in 1970 and also used to team manage track and field meetings - she's still involved with Berkshire Schools' AA. Stella remembers standing in the stadium infield watching the traditional ESAA Parade in 1971 and getting sunburnt - although the London Team Manager Pat Gillett (Williamson) who held that role from 1963 to 1989 noted luckily it was nice and cool in the concrete stands that summer. She recalls that Helen Barnett was in the London team; Helen went on to compete in two Olympics, two Commonwealth Games and European and World Championships.

Whilst some current officials who were younger at the time remember the dinosaur park!

"Mum used to take us to the dinosaur park to pass the time while Dad was officiating." says Alison Jordan, now an International Photofinish judge.

AAA and WAAA national championships

Nearly all the AAA and WAAA championships were held at Crystal Palace between 1968 and 1987, and the National Age Group championships for some years thereafter when the AAA and WAAA were merged and champs were moved to Birmingham's Alexander Stadium.

Steve Backley at Crystal Palace

Margaret Belk recalls competing there at the Women's AAA 1500m championships in the late 1970s. At the time, the inside lane was well used and had been patched with new Tartan in the finishing straight.

"We were excited to be going to run in the iconic stadium … Tartan tracks were new-ish and I had only run on Tartan a few times. From going quite well suddenly it was like running through mud - the lovely fast surface gave way to soft squashy brand new Tartan. We did think it was ironic that we trained on a cinder track and here was this new surface which had worn out already!"

London Grand Prix: 1953-2012

Crystal Palace also used to host the London Grand Prix - what would now be the Diamond League. Teacher Amanda recalls having fun running there as a young athlete and then taking her primary school class to watch the Grand Prix. She told us,

Timekeeper officials at Crystal Palace London Grand Prix

"As a teacher, being able to take talented, enthusiastic primary school athletes to an event where their heroes could inspire them was marvellous. I deliberately used to book the two front rows by the 200m start. This was where the athletes would leave the track to speak to the press. They were so good with the children; they would stop, give the children their numbers, sign their autograph books and get photos with them. Lots of the children went on to join athletics clubs and their experience at Crystal Palace played a huge part in that."

Athletics World Cup: 1994

Sally Gunnell at Crystal Palace World Cup 1994

1994 saw the Athletics World Cup take place at the stadium. Athletes medalling there include Linford Christie, John Regis, Tony Jarrett, Sally Gunnell, Kelly Holmes, Jon Nuttell, Yvonne Murray, and Rob Denmark on the track and Steve Smith, Julian Golley and Steve Backley representing jumps and throws on the podium.

Nicola Evans, now a Level 4 field judge, remembers being a fairly new official buying a ticket to watch her first major event.

"I wore my Southern Officials' waterproof top and after the pole vault finished I was able to easily go down past 'security'from my seat to go and chat to my more experienced colleagues who had been judging there!"

60th Anniversary event

The 60th Anniversary event will take place on Saturday 13 July (9am to 7.30pm) and aims to be a fun filled day for all the family with a festival feel, celebrating six decades of the iconic sports venue.

History and heritage

From exhibitions showcasing historic sporting moments to panel discussions exploring the architectural heritage, this celebration will immerse guests in the venue's incredible journey. Enjoy live performances, interactive sports zones, a chance to try out a range of sports and activities and meet celebrity guests.

Brendan Foster interviews Peter Elliot, Gary Cook, Steve Cram and Seb Coe
Brendan Foster interviews Peter Elliot, Gary Cook, Steve Cram and Seb Coe after new 4x800m relay world record at Crystal Palace. Photo by Mark Shearman

Free taster sessions, music, and Wimbledon Final screening

There will be a funetics Activation Zone, and clubs from across a range of sports will host free to try taster sessions and free to watch tournaments. There will also be live music, food and a screening of the Women's Wimbledon Final.

More information

  • You can enjoy the day at: Crystal Palace, Ledrington Road, Crystal Palace, SE19 2BB.
  • Nearest train station is Sydenham. Bus routes include 122, 157, 176, 249, 410.
  • Go to the event website for more details.

All photos (except mug) by Mark Shearman