West Ham Chosen as Preferred Olympic Stadium Tenant
14 February 2011
Author: Bill Wynn
Late on Friday, I read on the BBC website that West Ham United has been selected as the preferred club to move into the Olympic Stadium in east London after the 2012 Games. Good news all round!
Olympic Park Legacy Company (OPLC) executives chose West Ham's bid over a rival proposal from Tottenham Hotspur (Spurs). However, the decision must now be ratified by two government departments and the mayor of London, this or next week.
The vote in favour of West Ham's bid for the £537m venue was unanimous. It was judged to provide the best legacy. Baroness Ford, head of the OPLC, said: "We have made a unanimous recommendation to back West Ham and the borough of Newham as the long-term tenant. This represents the very best legacy for the stadium. It is cracking for the communities of east London and a really good outcome for sport."
A Spurs spokesman said: "We provided a first class proposal to support the sustainability of the whole project. It was never an option, however, that we would retain the running track as we believe this is unacceptable for our supporters. Much has been made of the promise to keep the track and therefore we expect to see this legally guaranteed."
A joint statement from Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt and Communities Secretary Eric Pickles read: ''Today's recommendation by the OPLC board marks an important milestone for the future of the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and the whole Olympic project. We will look through their recommendation in detail before coming to our own decision. We aim to make a formal announcement to Parliament shortly."
It is considered highly unlikely that the government and Mayor of London Boris Johnson will not now rubber stamp the recommendation. Reacting to the announcement, Mr Johnson wrote on Twitter: "Significant step forward today for the Olympic Park. Long-term future looking good."
Ken Livingstone, Mr Johnson's rival in the 2012 mayoral election, said: "This is the right decision for Londoners, the right decision for sports fans and athletes and the right decision for those who are working to deliver a long-term Olympic legacy for the capital. Today's decision will ensure we fulfil promises that the capital will retain a world-class athletics stadium at the Olympic Park which will inspire future generations."
UK Athletics boss Ed Warner also welcomed the decision. He said: "The pledges have been met and there will be a long-term athletics legacy in the Olympic Park. We now have a fantastic opportunity to ensure it continues to inspire for generations to come."
It is expected to cost about £95m to convert the venue from an 80,000 seat stadium to a 60,000-seat venue for football, athletics and cricket. The Olympic Delivery Authority is to give £35m of that to West Ham, while most of the remaining funds have been provided by a £40m loan arranged by Newham Council.
In conclusion, the story has not yet finished, but once the UK government rubber stamp this decision, then let's hope that UK Athletics and all involved can then work hard to get regular athletic events staged at the venue. Let's aim to host the European Athletic Championships and World Championships as soon as is possible. Regrettably it may mean the end of the Crystal Palace athletic track, which has held the IAAF Diamond League event for so long, but to be fair it is now an outdated track and stadium, which has been under funded and patched up for some time. But if Crystal Palace Football Club get their planning permission, then the grounds at Crystal Palace will get a new track and a new Football Stadium. This can only be good for the area, all involved and the UK construction jobs market.