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Lord Coe backs West Ham Olympic stadium plans

An architect's vision of how London's Olympic stadium will look in 2012
An architect's vision of how London's Olympic stadium will look in 2012

London 2012 chairman Lord Coe believes there is a "moral obligation" to preserve the Olympic Stadium as a multi-sport facility.

Tottenham and West Ham want to move to the stadium but Spurs want to turn it into a football-only venue.

"It's serious we deliver what we said we were going to unless we're prepared to trash our reputation," he said.

"It'd be very difficult for us to be taken seriously in the corridors of world sport and arguably beyond."

A decision on the future of the Olympic Park site is expected to be made on Friday.


West Ham's bid, which has the backing of the local council, would see them move about two-and-a-half miles from their Upton Park home to the stadium, and redevelop the venue but keep it as a multi-sport venue, including an athletics track.

Tottenham's proposal would see them move about seven miles from their White Hart Lane ground and remove the running track, converting the Olympic venue to a football-only venue but instead investing money to redevelop British athletics' current home at Crystal Palace into a world championship-standard venue.

West Ham vice-chairman Karren Brady and Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy set out their clubs' case on BBC 5 live's Sportsweek programme before Lord Coe was interviewed, and after hearing them speak, the man who successfully spearheaded London's bid to host the Games in July next year was unambiguous in his comments.

"I remember delivering a vision about a generation of young people being inspired to take up Olympic sports, I remember talking about young people in a poor community in East London fashioning their future through sport," he said.

"I'm prepared to revisit my words but I don't recall a whole heap about bulldozing down a publicly-funded community facility, replacing it with a football club and inspiring a generation of Tottenham season ticket holders, however many there may be on a waiting list."

Brady said the discussion over the future of the stadium "isn't a debate about Spurs v West Ham - it's Spurs v West Ham, the London Borough of Newham, UK Athletics and the promises made and the people of the East End of London and anyone with an Olympic aspiration."

She also said that should West Ham's bid be successful, there was no possibility of the athletics track being removed at a later date as the lease for athletics would be the same length as the club's lease at the stadium, and that Britain's standing in world sport "would take a crashing blow" if athletics was not preserved at the venue.

Brady said that if West Ham failed to get the go-ahead to move to the Stadium, the club would be "incredibly disappointed."

"We'll look at the process to see what has happened and why. The Olympic Legacy Company is making the decision, and the name is in the title.

"Athletics was a huge part of winning the lobbying (to get the 2012 Games) and the promises that were made.

"Just because Tottenham have decided their area's not smart enough and doesn't generate enough money - it's outrageous."

Whilst West Ham are already located in the London Borough of Newham, Tottenham are five miles away in Harringay.

Tottenham chairman Levy said they had opened discussions about moving to the Olympic venue six years ago, and that their proposal made the best use of the facility whilst also promising massive investment in a London athletics facility at Crystal Palace.

"It's very simple - we have a 36,000-strong waiting list for season tickets and we sell out every game, we need a bigger stadium," he said.

"It's exceedingly difficult to find a site to build a new stadium, and the North London Development project [redeveloping White Hart Lane] is not financially viable at the moment.

"We're committed to financing whatever it takes to redevelop Crystal Palace into a 25000 stadium which would be expandable up to 40,000 for a World Championship.

"It will be significantly better than the original legacy promise of a 25,000-seater venue in the Olympic Park.

"It's essential we get a larger stadium or how do we get the next generation of fans to watch our games?

"We believe our plan will not under any circumstances provide any form of white elephant, there will be a return to the public purse and we will underwrite very significant community and athletic legacy.

"We have put an enormous amount of effort in, we hope the people who have to take the decision will make a bold move and the right one."

But former Olympic athlete Lord Coe was unimpressed by Tottenham's Crystal Palace plan, saying "We set up legacy board when we were bidding and there is a viable bid on the table [West Ham'] which is presenting exactly the case we made."

He was also dismissive of Brazilian football legend Pele's endorsement of Tottenham's plan, saying "On this case we might as well get the winner of X Factor and Celebrity Masterchef out there."

Although Lord Coe has no involvement in the making of the decision about the future of the venue, he said that were he involved, there was only one way he could vote.

"The West Ham bid meets those commitments, I would have to vote for it," he said.

"I hope the decision supports a community legacy. I think it can work, it's the one we took to Singapore."

Levy later said he would prefer to deal with "fact rather than emotion."

He added: "Strip out the emotion, take a step back and ask what's best for athletics - it's surely to have a dedicated facility that's available all year round rather than 20 days a year.

"I'd don't buy the argument of having somewhere to take your grandchild to reminisce on London 2012, what I buy is a dedicated facility which will always be the home of athletics."

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see also
Hearn open to hockey stadium move
25 Jan 11 |  London 2012
Football greats in stadium debate
21 Jan 11 |  London 2012
Greaves backs Spurs' stadium plans
21 Jan 11 |  Tottenham
UK reputation 'dead' without 2012 legacy
20 Jan 11 |  London 2012
Athletics boss fears 2012 'lie'
20 Jan 11 |  London 2012
Council chief slams Spurs' stadium plans
21 Jan 11 |  London 2012

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