West Ham move ahead as the race for Olympic Stadium reaches final straight

Hammers set to spend £95m to convert stadium and will be granted 150-year lease
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The Independent Online

A decision on the future of the Olympic Stadium will be made tomorrow with West Ham United reportedly set to be recommended as the preferred bidder ahead of Tottenham Hotspur.

The Olympic Park Legacy Company's 14-strong board will meet to hear the advice of Baroness Ford and Andrew Altman, the body's chair and chief executive respectively, who have been examining the two proposals with the help of a small specialist team. West Ham are seen as the bidder that best meets the criteria laid down to take over the £537m stadium in the wake of next year's Games, although sources at the club said last night that they had yet to be informed of any decision, or even the timing of the announcement.

The most striking difference between the two bids, in what developed into a frequently acrimonious campaign following Tottenham's belated decision to enter the race, was over the athletics track – West Ham plan to keep it, Tottenham planned to rip it up and instead redevelop the National Stadium at Crystal Palace in south London. West Ham will spend £95m to convert the stadium and are set to be granted a 150-year lease.

Yesterday Tim Leiweke, the chief executive of AEG, the US entertainment conglomerate which partnered Tottenham in their bid, said that the stadium would "go bust in 10 years" if the running track remained in place, but West Ham's willingness to follow the original legacy, fulfilling promises so passionately made by London's successful bid to win the Games in Singapore, may well prove crucial in swinging the OPLC's backing their way.

"West Ham are the only ones proposing to stay true to the Olympic legacy with a running track in the stadium and we know it will work," said the club's co-chairman David Sullivan.

Once the OPLC's board has settled on a preferred bidder, and it would be a surprise if they didn't follow Ford's and Altman's recommendations, the decision has to be approved by the Mayor of London and the government, although neither is likely to overturn the board's choice. Of more concern to the OPLC, and the government, is Tottenham's response – the club have previously indicated that they would seek a judicial review should their bid be overlooked.

Both clubs proposed to turn the stadium into a 60,000-seat arena, but there the similarities ended. From the start West Ham's bid was pitched at being about much more than the football club moving to Stratford. They are partnered by Newham Council as well as Essex County Cricket Club.

They also had the support of UK Athletics, and Sebastian Coe, chairman of the London Olympics organising committee and the man behind bringing the Games to the capital, was a vocal and important backer. Coe said there was a "moral obligation" to preserve the stadium as a multi-sports facility. Last month, Lamine Diack, president of the IAAF, said Britain's sporting reputation across the globe would be "dead" if the track was removed.

In comparison, Tottenham's bold proposal to move from north London to the east, to effectively tear down the stadium and rebuild it as a football venue, at a much greater cost than West Ham, had slim support outside their own bid team – a significant number of their own fans were opposed to any such move and it also angered the local council and politicians. Last night, the MP for Tottenham, David Lammy, described reports of West Ham's success as a "good decision for Tottenham and a good decision for London".

The announcement of the preferred bidder was originally to be made last month, but the OPLC delayed it in order to receive further details from both parties. The deadline for the final decision is the end of the financial year, 5 April.



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