West Ham selected to take over Olympic Stadium

West Ham were today officially confirmed as the preferred bid to take over the Olympic Stadium after the London 2012 Games.

The Olympic Park Legacy Company (OPLC) announced that West Ham have beaten Tottenham in the race to take over the stadium at a news conference in Westminster today.

The choice of West Ham will see the athletics track retained inside a 60,000-capacity stadium in Stratford, east London.

The decision has to be ratified by the Government and London mayor Boris Johnson, but it would be a huge surprise if they did not rubber-stamp the recommendation.

Johnson said: "This is a very significant step forward towards delivering the Olympic Park legacy and the Legacy Company has run a thoroughly professional and robust process.

"This milestone means we now have the prospect of a local football club and a multi-use venue capable of hosting athletics, a range of other sports and a vibrant programme of events for the local community and schools.

"I am thrilled that the Legacy Company board has arrived at a recommendation for me and my colleagues in Government to consider.

"I am confident that we will be able to respond quickly to the advice of the Legacy Company in making our decision."

In a joint statement, Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt and Communities Secretary Eric Pickles said: "Today's recommendation by the OPLC board marks an important milestone for the future of the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and the whole of the Olympic project.

"We would like to thank Baroness Ford and all her board members for the conscientious and thorough way they have approached the decision making process.

"We will look through their recommendation in detail before coming to our own decision. We aim to make a formal announcement to Parliament shortly."

In a statement, the British Olympic Association said: "The recommendation announced today by the Olympic Park Legacy Company is a victory for athletes, for sport and, importantly, for the generations of young people who will see their lives transformed as a result of the London 2012 Olympic Games.

"We hope this recommendation will ensure the London Games will be the beginning, rather than the end, of a dynamic new era for Olympic, high performance and grassroots sport in Great Britain.

"This is also a victory for the reputation of British sport globally. When the London 2012 bid team stood before members of the International Olympic Committee in 2005 and asked for their vote, they did so with a commitment to deliver a meaningful legacy from the Olympic Games, including the retention of an athletics track inside the iconic Olympic Stadium.

"The recommendation announced today, if ultimately accepted, will be a major step forward in delivering on that promise."

Baroness Ford, chair of the OPLC, insisted the selection process had been fair and robust.

She described the decision as "the very best legacy for the stadium, cracking for the community of east London, excellent news for the UK taxpayer and very good for sport".

Ford told the news conference: "Each bidder has put an enormous amount of effort into this. We are delighted to have two robust, competitive bids.

"Our job today was to judge the merits against the five criteria we have set out from the start of the process.

"Our board has considered this really carefully and we have made a unanimous recommendation to select West Ham and the London borough of Newham as the long-term tenant for our Olympic Stadium.

"This has not been an easy decision and, despite what has been trailed in some of the newspapers, this has not been a fait accompli.

"We have taken this very seriously indeed. Both bidders were considered seriously on the merits - that's what our job was."

UK Athletics chairman Ed Warner said the decision made "commercial sense".

He told Sky Sports News: "This is a fantastic opportunity for generations to come.

"We are looking at a lease which goes on for more than 100 years.

"There is going to be football sitting side by side with athletics and a whole host of other community events at this stadium.

"It was what the legacy of the Olympics was always intended to be about.

"We have worked very hard with Newham council and with West Ham to come up with a vibrant solution that sustains the stadium.

"It's great for West Ham and really good for the sport of athletics.

"The commercials really stack up, the legacy company have taken their time to take a fine toothcomb to this bid and the Tottenham bid and they have taken a decision which is right for London, right for the Olympics and makes commercial sense."

Former Tottenham chairman Lord Sugar, who felt Spurs' bid to rebuild the stadium as a football-only venue was superior, believes in time West Ham will realise football and athletics do not mix.

Sugar told Sky News: "One bit of advice I gave to Spurs is to collect all the articles that have been written about this fiasco up until now, put them in storage and bring them out in four years' time and at least you will have the satisfaction of saying 'I told you so.'

"I wonder whether the due diligence will include an absolute cast-iron agreement with West Ham that whatever happens they must keep a running track, that will be very interesting to see if the committee do insist upon that."

Sugar admitted he has no personal issue with West Ham co-owners David Gold or David Sullivan or Hammers vice-chairman Karren Brady, who appears alongside Sugar as an adviser on BBC programme The Apprentice.

Speaking to Sky Sports News, he said: "I wish them luck. I like the two Davids and of course Karren, and good luck to them. It ain't going to work, but good luck to them."

Sugar doubted whether Spurs would launch any legal action against the decision, but was surprised at the ability of Newham Council to help finance the rival bid and called on Haringey Council to provide similar backing to Spurs in order for them to remain in north London.

Tottenham MP David Lammy was opposed to Spurs' plans to move to east London, and Sugar hopes he will now assist Tottenham in staying close to their historic roots.

He added: "What I would suggest to Tottenham is that they go back to Haringey and say to Haringey - in particular our great supporter David Lammy - 'done is done, you've got your wish, we're not moving, if you want us in Haringey, what are you going to do about it?'

"If Newham, the poorest council in the country, can cough up 40 million quid, give us a £250million, 25-year mortgage at low interest rates so that we can build a stadium in Haringey."

London 2012 chairman Lord Coe said: "We are delighted with the news that the Olympic Park Legacy Company has recommended West Ham United as the preferred bid to take over the Olympic Stadium after the London 2012 Games.

"I would like to thank Baroness Ford, her board and her team at OPLC for conducting such a thorough process in what has been a highly competitive bidding process."

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