London 2012 - West Ham win Olympic Stadium battle

Fri, 11 Feb 12:06:00 2011

West Ham have been confirmed as the winners of the race to move to the Olympic Stadium after London 2012, beating rivals Tottenham to the Stratford arena after a unanimous vote.

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As expected, the 14-strong Olympic Park Legacy board, having convened at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre, announced they had selected West Ham as the preferred bidder, confirming reports that leaked on Wednesday.

The OPLC cited West Ham's commitment to the five criteria laid out for bidders for the stadium, suggesting the Hammers met all the requirements whereas Tottenham did not.

But OPLC chairman Baroness Ford refused to go into any further detail regarding either bid, citing the fact that the process is yet to be completed with government ratifications needed.

"We selected West Ham as the preferred long term tenant for the Olympic stadium," said Ford,

"This represents the very best legacy for the stadium.

"It's cracking for the community of east London and a really good outcome for sport.

We are confident that this represents the best solution and the board were unanimous in the decision to recommend West Ham and Newham Council."

In what became an increasing bitter war of words - played out in public between Spurs chairman Daniel Levy and West Ham vice-chairman Karren Brady - the Hammers' commitment to the athletics cause has seemingly proved pivotal.

Public support has also come down firmly on the side of West Ham and not even the appointment of the UK's top sports spin doctor Mike Lee, the brains behind London 2012's successful bid, could detract the attention away from the bulldozers.

The news will come as music to the ears within athletics circles acro ss the country while London 2012 chairman Lord Sebastian Coe who is also the IAAF vice-president will also be delighted.

While owners David Gold and David Sullivan were at first against the idea, having teamed up with Newham Council West Ham have now pledged to maintain the athletics track and honour the pledges made by the London 2012 bid team when the Games were won in 2005.

Tottenham, on the other hand, have made no bones about their intentions to rip up the track and create a purpose-built football stadium.

West Ham have insisted that by honouring the athletics track they have secured Great Britain's reputation as a sporting host nation and honoured the commitments to the community.

But Tottenham claim football and athletics stadia are not viable in the UK and claim their bid offers the London taxpayer - who has so far footed the vast majority of the bill for the £537m stadium - and the OPLC a far more commercially feasible option.

The OPLC are said to have expressed concerns over how Tottenham would need to borrow £250m whereas West Ham would borrow just £40m, claiming it will cost £95m to modify.

Tottenham, who had planned to honour the legacy commitments by renovating the dilapidated Crystal Palace athletics stadium, are said to be considering legal action having expressed concerns that political forces rather than financial facts were behind the OPLC's decision and could seek judicial review.

They are also reportedly furious at the way in which West Ham's supposed victory leaked on Wednesday while Leyton Orient chairman Barry Hearn is also said to be considering his position.

Hearn, who originally turned down a possible move to the Olympic Stadium because of the athletics track, believes West Ham will be breaking Football League and Premier League rules by relocating too close to another club.

But OPLC chairman Baroness Ford and chief executive Andrew Altman have spent the past week examining final submissions from both bids and are understood to have reached the conclusion that only West Ham satisfactorily fulfil all the criteria laid down for the decision. Those are:

- To achieve a viable long-term solution for the Olympic Stadium that is deliverable and provides value for money

- To secure a partner with the capability to deliver and operate a legacy solution for a venue of the stadium's size and complexity

- To reopen the stadium for operational use as rapidly as possible once the 2012 Games have finished

- To ensure that the stadium remains a distinctive physical symbol supporting the economic, physical and social regeneration of the surrounding area and

- To allow flexible usage of the stadium, accommodating a vibrant programme of events that allows year-round access for schools, the local community, the wider public and elite sport

And Ford was insistent that there were no outside interferences in the decision making-process.

"A lot of people feel very passionately about this from both sides," she added. "But we have had complete freedom in making a decision objectively and dispassionately.

"I might have got the hump from time to time [with some of the public comments] but this was alwasy going to be a public process.

"Both bids were taken entirely seriously and in good faith on their merits.

West Ham's selection as the preferred bidder will now pass to Mayor of London Boris Johnson, Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt and Communities Minister Eric Pickles for ratification.

Judging by the Government's public commitment to the Olympics, rubber-stamping the decision is expected to be a formality but it was reportedly Mr Johnson who first encouraged Spurs to enter the race.  

More than the Games / Eurosport

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