West Ham Olympic Stadium deal collapses
Fears over legal dispute prompt Olympic legacy company to pull the plug and rent out the arena
THE FUTURE of the 2012 Olympic Stadium has been thrown into confusion after the deal for West Ham to move in after the Games collapsed amid fears that legal challenges could undermine the agreement and leave the stadium lying empty for years.
According to the BBC the Olympic Park Legacy Company (OPLC) pulled the plug on the deal because of the ongoing threat of legal action from opponents, including rival football clubs Tottenham Hotspur and Leyton Orient.
The OPLC and Mayor of London have now decided that the stadium in east London should remain in public ownership, and the hunt for a tenant to lease the arena will begin soon. Bidders will have to submit proposals by January.
Under the new arrangement as much as £50m in public money will have to be found to convert the 80,000-capacity stadium into a 60,000-seater venue after the Games are over. However, the move will safeguard the future of the running track and could strengthen Britain's bid to host the 2017 World Athletics Championships.
And West Ham could still end up playing at the stadium if they and Newham Council bid to become the tenants. Indeed, it may even be cheaper for the Hammers to rent the venue from the OPLC. The BBC reports that they will have to pay around £2m a year to lease the stadium, although the overall running costs will be more than £5m a year.
The radical decision by the OPLC was made because of uncertainty caused by the prospect of legal action over the decision to hand the stadium to West Ham. There were objections from Spurs and Orient, plus an anonymous complaint to the European Commission. The new tenants were due to move into the arena in 2014, but an ongoing courtroom battle could have prevented that deadline from being met. Spurs and Orient claimed that a £40m loan from Newham Council to the Hammers amounted to state aid.
There had been attempts to prevent a long running legal dispute, with the Mayor of London Boris Johnson even offering Spurs funding to help redevelop their White Hart Lane ground in the hope they would end their interest in the Olympic Stadium.
But with another court hearing scheduled for Tuesday next week and concerns over London's 2017 athletics bid the OPLC decided to take the drastic step, just 10 months before the Olympics will begin. ·
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