Wednesday 19 January 2011

The battle for the Olympic stadium

We’re heading into the home straight in the race to decide who’ll take over the Olympic Stadium after the 2012 Games.

I’ve been following this story quite closely in the last few days. It’s now a two-way battle between West Ham and Tottenham.

West Ham must be favourites, but Spurs have come along in recent months to muscle in on the plans of West Ham and UK athletics.

A decision on the stadium should have been made years ago. It feels like we’ve spent the last 6 years discussing what the Olympic legacy should be. With a year to go we’re still not sure.

A final decision will be made next week on the 28 January. None of the proposals are ideal, but If I had to choose I’d prefer to see West Ham get the Olympic Stadium rather than Spurs.

Personally my own choice for the Olympic stadium would be this:

After the Games reduce the stadium's capacity to 20 - 25,000 seats, and turn it into a multi purpose stadium for both sporting and non sports events. If a football club had to come in and use it how about Leyton Orient?

I was under the impression that one of the promises made when London won the bid in 2005, was the Games would leave a legacy for athletics. As an athletics fan, I'd like to see athletics taken care of.

I accept that a 40,000 plus capacity stadium used only for athletics isn't viable. Any stadium that size would need a football club using it, if you wanted to fill it on regular basis.

West Ham's plans show they intend to keep the athletics track and reduce the capacity from 80,000 to 60,000 seats.

This would be great for UK athletics, it could potentially bid for World and European Championships. The main problems are that I can't see West Ham filling a 60,000 stadium - their fan base isn't big enough; secondly football fans in this country don't want to watch football in stadiums with athletics tracks. It's not part of our footballing culture.

Although West Ham moving in wouldn't be perfect, it's still better than Tottenham's proposals. Spurs should stay in North London, and I know most of their fans agree.

Spurs are bidding in collaboration with the sports and entertainment company AEG. They want to demolish most of the stadium, and build a new football stadium which doesn't include a track.

To appease UK athletics, they will contribute financially in refurbishing the athletics stadium in Crystal Palace, South London.

Former British Olympic sprinter Darren Campbell, has said today that Tottenham's plans should be considered. I agree up to a point.

I'd be happy to see Crystal Palace refurbished - it needs it, but I still don't like Tottenham's plans. They haven't yet answered questions on when they intend to fully refurbish Crystal Palace, and how will they afford to do so whilst competing in the Premier League and in Europe?

Firstly Spurs don't really want to move, the Olympic Stadium is their second choice. They've already had plans commissioned to build a new stadium next door to White Hart Lane. By proposing to move to Stratford they can put more pressure on Haringey Council to support Spurs' attempts to build a new stadium in Tottenham.

Anyone who's been to a match at White Hart Lane, knows about the problems with transport links. Any new stadium built in Tottenham would need assurances that improvements to the local transport infrastructure would be made. I'm just wondering where the money for such capital investment would come from in these difficult economic times.

The London borough of Haringey is already one of the most deprived and disadvantaged in London. The revenue that Spurs bring to the area means the council can't afford to lose Tottenham to East London. This is another reason for Spurs to remain where they are.

Tottenham's plans are a non starter, and West Ham taking over the Olympic stadium is the best option.

We'll find out on the 28 January.

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