Last Updated: 15/03/11 2:37pm
Lewis: hard act to follow
Carl Lewis told Sky Sports News HD it's imperative for the future of British athletics that London's Olympic Stadium retains its running track beyond 2012.
"I hope I left a legacy that made the sport better than it was when I came in. It wasn't really about the medals - it was about was it better, did we fight drugs more, did we make it better for athletes to earn a living? "
Carl Lewis Quotes of the week
Lewis, a nine-time Olympic champion, visited the site in Stratford on the first day that the public can make online ticket applications for next year's games.
Last month the Olympic Park Legacy company chose West Ham United as its preferred club to move into the stadium once it has served its original purpose; the Hammers have always promised to retain the track even once the facility is converted to host football.
Lewis welcomed the move and gave the stadium his seal of approval.
"It's great for the country and the athletes to have a track because when you have that stadium it gives them something to aspire to and something to have a sense of pride in," he said.
"Keeping the stadium for athletics will be great for the sport. It looks great, I think the athletes are going to love it and I just love how open and airy it is because it really has an intimacy but also an openness that makes it really nice for people to compete.
"London will be tremendous; it's a great place, the timing's great - especially for us Americans, it's so close - and it's kind of in the centre of everywhere so it will be easy to see, great for television and there are so many cultural things to do in London I think everyone is going to have a great time at the Games."
Lewis, 49, won four gold medals in the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles and says Great British athletes should get a real lift from competing in front of their home crowd.
"It makes a big difference," he said. "You know people in the stands but not only that, every time someone from this area goes you are going to have the biggest cheer.
"There is some pride because all of a sudden people see your home town filling a stadium; it makes a big, big difference with the athletes that are competing.
"They [the GB team] can do tremendous. When you raise expectations then people perform and that's what they need to do."
Lewis won gold medals on the track in the 100m, 200m and 4x100m events but regarded the long jump as his primary discipline - topping the podium in the Olympics at Los Angeles, Seoul, Barcelona and Atlanta between 1984 and 1996.
However, he hopes to be remembered for more than his medals.
"I hope I left a legacy that made the sport better than it was when I came in. It wasn't really about the medals - it was about was it better, did we fight drugs more, did we make it better for athletes to earn a living?
"These are the issues that are something that make you relevant and that last and I hope that is what people remember at the end of the day the most."
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