POSTED: January 20th 2010

New 2012 twist in debate over future of London's Olympic Stadium

Work in progress: London's 2012 Olympic Stadium / lake images
Work in progress: London's 2012 Olympic Stadium / lake images

KEIR RADNEDGE / Sports Features Communications

LONDON, Jan 20: A new complication has been cast into the uncertainty over the post-2012 future of the London Olympic stadium by the new part-owner of Premier League club West Ham United.

The most likely outcome, once a soccer solution had been discounted originally, was that the stadium in east London would be reduced to a 25,000-seat venue mainly for athletics.

However, the football option was kept open when the stadium was named as an option in England's shortlist of venues to be put before FIFA as a part of the bid to host the 2018 World Cup.

Now David Sullivan, the new owner of West Ham United, has said he would like to move the east London club from Upton Park to the Olympic Stadium after the Games. Lifelong Hammers fan Sullivan has acquired 50 per cent of the club in a deal which values West Ham at £105m. Icelandic bank Straumur continues to hold the remaining half.

Sullivan said: “It is nice to get the club back in the hands of east Londoners and these are exciting times. We hope to persuade the Government to let us move into the new Olympic Stadium and I believe the people of east London would support that move."

London 2012 organisers say West Ham would have to agree to keep a running track at the stadium. Mayor Boris Johnson has been keen for a football club to take over the running costs of the stadium but the decision will have to be taken by the Olympic Park Legacy Company (OPLC).

Legacy factor

A London 2012 spokeswoman said: “The OPLC is looking at the legacy of the Olympic Park, including the stadium. Everyone is clear that the stadium will have a running track in legacy but additional sporting use is a matter for the OPLC."

West Ham have debts of more than £100m after the disruptive and nearly-disastrous Icelandic ownership experience and Sullivan believes the club's future would be brighter if they could move to the Olympic Stadium.

He said: “There may be a way around the running track issue. Maybe we could lay the running track for three months or something. It may be cheaper to build a running track somewhere else. I don't think running tracks work, particularly behind the goal. The customers are so far back it doesn't work.

“We don't want to buy the Olympic Stadium, we would want to rent it. The Government promised to keep it alive for 30 years, it's going to cost them more to keep it alive. With us it's going to cost them nothing - we would pay all the running costs.

“If we have a huge ground, we can take football back to the people, reduce admission prices and become the cheapest Premier League ground in the country. If our chances are not better than 50-50, I'd be very surprised.

"It can't be comprehended that a government can build a huge ground, then reduce it and use it for rugby, which would be empty. There's a precedent with Manchester City getting the Commonwealth Games stadium so, to a large extent, we should get it, but we are in negotiations."

Keywords · London 2012 · Olympic Games · West Ham · Sullivan

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