Stade de France model could have averted London stadium battle
KEIR RADNEDGE / Sports Features Communications
LONDON, Jan 22: West Ham and Newham Council appear to winning the public relations battle over the London Olympic stadium - if nothing else yet – after a further string of high-profile attacks on Tottenham’s rival plan to rip up the track and rebuild.
More pertinently, amid the war of words, it became ever more obvious that clearer orginal thinking could have prevented the present unedifying scrap over the venue at the heart of the fast-evolving Olympic Park.
Had the original stadium design included retractable seating – as was incorporated in the Stade de France in Saint-Denis – then the track-or-no-track debate would never have seen the light of day and West Ham and Tottenham and any other club could have bid for the existing venue.
Latest critics of the Tottenham concept, developed with entertainment giant AEG which runs the successful o2 Arena, included former Olympics Minister Tessa Jowell, world athletics leader Lamine Diack, Newham council chief executive Kim Bromley-Derry and UK Athletics’ head coach Charles Van Commenee.
The Olympic Park Legacy Company is likely to decide next Friday on a ‘preferred bid.’
Spurs’ plan to build a new football stadium on the site while redeveloping the existing Crystal Palace arena for athletics has been savaged by Bromley-Derry. He said: “I think it's outrageous, to be honest. The carbon footprint created by knocking down such a stadium and building a new one is equivalent to us running our stadium for 93 years. It's also a huge waste of public money. We want to put money into the local community, not take it out."
He insisted that under West Ham's plan no-one would be sitting further from the pitch than at Wembley. Bromley-Derry added: “The sight-lines for our stadium will exceed those there. We refute allegations that this will mean a worse spectator experience.
“We've got guarantees for that funding, and we're not basing it on Premier League football. We're absolutely confident we'll get a return on the loan, even if West Ham are relegated. The business case stacks up."
West Ham's joint bid with Newham has the support of the world's biggest concert promoter, Live Nation, while the University of East London and Essex County Cricket Club are also on board.
The stadium would house an Olympic Museum and be used as the centrepiece of an anticipated bid for the World Athletics Championships in 2017.
For his part, IAAF president Lamine Diack warned that Britain's reputation in world sport would be “dead" if the OPLC committed “a big lie" and abandon the promise to retain an athletics track.
Diack, the head of the international athletics body since 1999, said London had to keep the promise made to the IOC when it won the bid in Singapore.
He said: “[If the track goes] you can consider you are dead. You are finished. There is no way to come back to make any proposal as far as my generation is concerned. There will be no credibility ... of a great country like Britain. They will have made a big lie to us during their presentation [in Singapore]. A big lie . . . a betrayal.”
Jowell, who had delivered the track legacy to the IOC during London’s Singapore presentation, has not changed her mind.
She said: “”We made a promise about the athletics legacy London would offer and we did not make it simply to see it broken a few years later.
“We made that promise against the background of the 2005 World Championships, which we had to pull out of because we could not provide a suitable stadium (at Picketts Lock) to host it. That decision caused a great deal of damage, but the fact that it was substantially repaired was credit to the bid, and tells you a great deal about the importance of the promise of an athletics legacy that we made.
"I think it is a great pity that the only option is a football club but it is more important that the stadium ends up with the capacity for long-term use by the communities of east London.”
Dutchman Van Commenee feared London would fall back in the queue of potential hosts for major athletics championships.
He said: “If London doesn't have a stadium where we can organise major championships in athletics, that puts you in a category in Europe that I can't even think of. Is there any capital in Europe that can't do this? I'm astonished when I see that there's even a discussion, when a promise was made at the time that we made the bid . . . ridiculous."
The OPLC’s decision will need ratification from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, and the Department of Communities and Local Government as well as from the London mayor's office.
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