West Ham hope to solve Olympic stadium legacy problem
The London 2012 Olympic Stadium is under construction
By Olly Foster
It is almost impossible to report on any aspect of the 2012 Olympics without using the dreaded 'L' word.
When the London Games were won, it was off the back of a bid promise to the International Olympic Committee that the month-long Olympics and Paralympics jamboree would increase national sporting participation and transform a bit of the capital's East End wasteland - to provide a 'legacy'.
And down the road, West Ham's new owners saw a business opportunity.
David Gold, who along with David Sullivan took over the Hammers in January, said: "It's a perfect fit. Take us on board, make us partners in a new adventure and have a legacy that could last 100 years."
London's Olympic organisers will like that kind of language from Gold, he uses the 'L' word.
The ink was barely dry on his takeover at Upton Park before he resurrected the proposal of West Ham moving into the Olympic Stadium.
The cartwheels at Canary Wharf, Lord Coe's London 2012 HQ, did not last long as Hammers' co-owner Sullivan expanded on their stadium plans.
Sullivan said: "He (Lord Coe) can have an athletics track elsewhere. The bigger dream is for West Ham fans to have a football stadium.
"It may be cheaper to build a running track somewhere else. I don't think running tracks work, particularly behind the goal''.
Former Olympic triple jump champion and world record-holder Jonathan Edwards is involved with 2012 as an athlete representative.
He was speaking on Tuesday evening at the third anniversary party of StreetGames, a national community sport programme.
It calls itself legacy leaders, but, for all the good it is doing on limited resources, post-2012, the legacy will be immediately judged by the Olympic site, the facilities left behind and who is going to use the half-billion pound Olympic Stadium.
With the budget already bursting, can the organisers really afford not to break their promise to the IOC?
"I would hope there's a solution both ways," Edwards told me.
"Yes, you do want a sustainable stadium and perhaps a football club is a great way of doing that. But, equally we have committed to the IOC, IAAF, and Seb Coe in particular that we would have an athletics legacy.
"I think there can be a solution where you use it as a football stadium and an athletics stadium.
"I think there are examples around the world. But what is non-negotiable is that there will be an athletics legacy."
Proposed stadium to be the showpiece of the 2012 London Games
The two Davids at West Ham will not appreciate that kind of language but, by the time any negotiations do start, a new government may be involved.
Hugh Robertson is the shadow sports minister and a Chelsea fan who may prove to be a useful ally for the east Londoners.
"We have to admit that the original plan is not really viable," said Robertson.
"The concept of a world-class athletics facility and some sort of community use is not going to make that stadium pay for a long time into the future.
"What we should be doing now is deciding the economic criteria on which we're going to base the future of the stadia and inviting bids from everybody and I'm very much hoping that West Ham will be a part of that.
"Then we need to have a proper evaluation of those bids and make a decision afterwards.
"That's the basis on which we solved the Dome (now the O2 arena) and that should be exactly the same basis on which we decide the use of the Olympic Stadium."
Robertson is an 'L' man as well though. He was involved in the original bid and would not let West Ham rip up the athletics track.
"Mr Gold and Mr Sullivan want to go down to the stadium before they start making too many remarks like that," said Robertson.
"If you go and stand in the middle of the Olympic stadium you'll realise the sightlines are way above those 80s and 90s stadia where the running track made the football a very long way away from the spectators.
"There's a bit of a neurosis among Premier League clubs about this and I think you can overcome this at the Olympic Stadium because it's so much more of a modern stadium and there are technical things you can do with the seating that will overcome that.
"I really don't think that this is a deal breaker in any way shape or form it just requires a little common sense," Robertson added.
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