POSTED: July 14th 2009

Legacy leader Ford rethinks stadium plan for London 2012

Going up: London's Olympic stadium / London2012
Going up: London's Olympic stadium / London2012

KEIR RADNEDGE / Sports Features Communications

LONDON: The long-term future of the 2012 Olympic stadium has been cast into question yet again by the new chair of the post-Games legacy company, Margaret Ford.

Appointed three months ago, Baroness Ford is spending the next six months reviewing the strategy for the Olympic Park which includes the plan not only to build 10,000 homes but to scale down the £550m stadium from an 80,000 to a 25,000 capacity.

Ford, in an interview with Building magazine, said she believed that the current plans did not make enough of the sporting legacy of the Olympics.  Her experience in leading major projects includes five years advising John Prescott, the then Deputy Prime Minister, on development and building.

She did not envisage pulling the entire project apart, believing that “at the 80pc level the masterplan is absolutely excellent.” But she expressed doubts about whether “the Olympic legacy sings out.”

The legacy company is independent but reports to Olympics minister Tessa Jowell, Communities Secretary John Denham and to London Mayor Boris Johnson.

Football solution

Initially it had been hoped that the stadium might have been taken over by a Premier League football club but a serious proposition never materialised. The need to maintain the stadium in some form, as a central athletics venue at the least, led to the present expectation that it will be sized down after the Games to avoid the ‘white elephant syndrome.’

However, Ford said she thought a full-size stadium might be viable with the incorporation of features such as a British Olympic museum.

She said: “Nothing has been ruled in and nothing’s ruled out at this stage. We could revisit the football idea. I also want to see what else we can do in the undercroft of the stadium in terms of bringing visitors there to provide a great sporting experience, and a great sporting facility for local people.

"I’m not saying is that you have to have an anchor tenant that’s a football club. Between now and Christmas we’ll be looking at some exciting alternative uses but also how we make it pay.”

Ford said she expected to reach agreement this autumn with the Government Treasury about the security of long-term legacy finance. The London Development Agency has spent £1.16bn on the site but around half should be repaid to loan authorities and the National Lottery.

Keywords · 2012 Olympic Games · London · legacy · Baroness Margaret Ford · Jowell · Denham · London Mayor · Boris Johnson

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