Magnusson racing against time to seal Olympic home for West Ham

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The Independent Online

The Icelandic businessman who has emerged as the frontrunner to buy West Ham United is planning urgent talks with the 2012 Games organisers with a view to making the London Olympic stadium the club's new home.

The news that Eggert Magnusson is considering a moveto the Stratford venue emerged yesterday as Olympics bosses warned that "time was running out" for a potential Premiership tenant to apply for such a move.

Magnusson, who is expected to make a formal offer in the next couple of days, is said to be aware of the urgency and the demand from Sebastian Coe, the chairman of the organising committee (Locog), that the venue has an athletics legacy.

David Higgins, the chief executive of the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA), revealed that the deadline for an application to move into the Olympic stadium was in a couple of months' time.

The ODA, which is responsible for building the 2012 venues, needs to forge ahead with designing the stadium next year before building work begins in 2008. Under current plans, Team McAlpine, the consortium building the stadium, will construct a stadium in the Lower Lea Valley with a capacity of 80,000, to be reduced to 25,000 after the Olympics. Under plans submitted to the International Olympic Committee, 2012 planners are obliged to keep an athletics track as a legacy of the stadium.

Speaking on a fact-finding trip to Barcelona, host of the 1992 Games, Mr Higgins said: "We met the major football clubs, Spurs and West Ham, in August and said, 'If you have a commercial proposal to put to us you need to come back to us soon'. We have not heard back from anyone. To influence the current design, time is running out. They can come back after the Olympics and put something in later on, there will be flexibility built in but it will be more expensive. To influence the current design, time is very limited to do that."

Higgins also revealed that no football club could have complete ownership of the stadium. The maximum control a club could take would be to become the chief tenant.

Government figures initially said that they were keen on a Premiership team moving into the stadium but the ODA said this week it was "unlikely" that such a club would come forward with the necessary £150m to convert the stadium from 80,000 capacity to 60,000, an ideal size for a top-flight team.

Spurs have ruled themselves out, saying they would not favour a stadium with an athletics track.That has left West Ham as the only realistic option. Mayor Ken Livingstone spoke this week of his frustration at speculation linking West Ham to the stadium.

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