Mayor of London backs Olympic Stadium decision

Boris Johnson has voiced his support over the decision to take the ground back into public ownership

Sportsbeat
By Sportsbeat
olympic stadium
The future of the London 2012 Olympic Stadium now lies in public hands Photo: Locog/Getty Images

olympic stadium

London mayor Boris Johnson has backed the decision to take the Olympic Stadium back into public ownership – claiming it could be a real “money spinner”.

Championship club West Ham United were awarded the £500m venue by the Olympic Park Delivery Authority after a controversial battle with Premier League side Tottenham Hotspur earlier this year.

But the beaten bidder are still threatening legal action, vowing to launch a judicial review over the use of public funds in West Ham’s bid, while it is understood an anonymous complaint has also been made to the European Commission.

Consequently the OPLC has decided to take control of the stadium and is now starting a new tender process, as they seek to raise the estimated annual £5m it will cost to run post-Games from a variety of tenants, expected to still include both West Ham and UK Athletics.

“What we’re doing is trying to end the faffing around that is going on because of the legal anxieties that have crept into the original decision to go with West Ham,” Johnson told Mayor’s Question Time at London’s City Hall.

“We will now go to a very sensible solution from the point of view of the public purse. I’m sure that we will thereby deliver not just a football legacy for the stadium, which I think was always a great thing to achieve, but an athletics legacy as well.”

Tottenham have long claimed that the stadium – which will host the opening and closing ceremonies at next year’s Games, in addition to track and field events – would need modification to stage football matches.

In contrast, West Ham remained committed to retaining the athletics track, delivering a key promise for that sport’s legacy, made when London were awarded the Games in 2005.

“We’re confident that the mixed use solution that we’ve come up with will be suitable both for football and for athletics,” added Mr Johnson.

“When I became mayor I took a view that it wasn’t really sensible to have an athletics only solution. It struck me that athletics alone, wonderful though it is, important though it is to encourage that sport in London, just wouldn’t fill it.

“This stadium was designed as an athletics venue, which made it technically difficult for some football teams. They said they didn’t like the sight lines and didn’t like the way it was configured. However, other sides didn’t seem to have that objection.

“It’s not just football, it’s not just athletics. This could be a fantastic venue for all sorts of things. When you consider what’s happened to the Dome, and the potential for developing entertainment of all kinds, this could be a big money spinner.”

Johnson added that he hopes Tottenham now drop their legal objections to the stadium project and focus their attention on their proposed new ground development in north London, after he recently promised £8.5m in regeneration funding as an incentive.

“I think we have made it clear that it would be good for Spurs and good for Tottenham if they regenerated their stadium at White Hart Lane and regenerated that area,” he added.

“We are working with them to achieve that. There is fantastic potential in that part of London.”

© Sportsbeat 2011

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