West Ham receive government approval for Olympic Stadium takeover

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The Independent Football

London mayor Boris Johnson has claimed that the decision to allow West Ham to take over the Olympic Stadium will prevent the venue becoming "a dust bowl" staging occasional athletics events.

The Government and mayor today gave their approval to a recommendation by the Olympic Park Legacy Company that West Ham be chosen as the future stadium tenant ahead of Tottenham.

The original plan had been for the Olympic Stadium to be reduced to a 25,000 venue to be the home of British athletics.

Johnson said the choice of West Ham would secure the stadium's future - and the fact it will retain the running track will ensure it remains a multi-sport venue.

"I am confident that West Ham will provide a secure future for the stadium which also sees its iconic design for the London Games retained for future generations to admire," said Johnson.

"Just two years ago it faced the prospect of becoming a dust bowl staging occasional athletics events but now we can look forward to a fantastic multi-use venue at the heart of the community, able to host football and other sports, as well as concerts and events specifically for local people and schools."

Johnson also promised Tottenham that he would do all he could to help them move to a new stadium.

He added: "The extremely thorough process to select a preferred bidder for the stadium attracted two outstanding proposals from two great London football clubs.

"I would like to reassure Tottenham Hotspur that we stand ready to support them with any plans they now want to take forward for their future stadium requirements."

The OPLC chose West Ham over Tottenham on the basis that their bid was a better match for the five criteria laid down. One criteria was for the stadium to re-open as quickly as possible after the 2012 Games, and Tottenham's plan was to demolish it and rebuilt a football-only venue.

Local government minister Bob Neill confirmed that he and sports/Olympics minister Hugh Robertson had both approved the recommendation.

Neill said: "This completes the first stage of this process and means that the Olympic Park Legacy Company are now able to enter into negotiations with the consortium comprising West Ham and the London Borough of Newham to agree a lease for the Olympic Stadium site on terms that are acceptable to Government and the Mayor of London and provide value for money to the public sector.

"We are delighted with the progress that has been made and very pleased we have reached this very significant milestone in determining the long-term legacy for the Olympic Park following the Games."

West Ham vice-chairman Karren Brady was heavily involved in the club's bid and she was delighted to hear that the Hammers are now one step closer to being handed the keys to the stadium for the 2013-14 season.

She said: "I am pleased and proud the Mayor of London and Government have today endorsed the Olympic Park Legacy Company's recommendation that West Ham United and Newham Council be preferred bidder for the Olympic Stadium.

"I am grateful for their support and the clear recognition of the strengths of a financially strong, community-based bid that will do much for the regeneration of east London.

"I must also personally thank Baroness Ford and Andy Altman of the OPLC for the thorough and professional way they have handled this entire process. I look forward to working with them in the future and making their vision a reality."

Some West Ham fans have voiced their dissatisfaction at moving to a stadium with a running track around it, but Brady has promised to deliver the Hammers faithful a "spectacular" ground that they can be proud of.

"At West Ham, we have been entrusted with a great responsibility and the OPLC's unanimous backing will only inspire us further to make good on our legacy promises. In many ways, the hard work starts now. The starting gun has been fired and we are off and running.

"This will be an Olympic Stadium to make everyone proud, a multi-sports, multi-event arena that will be both a spectacular local and global attraction. We will not let anyone down."

Newham council, who partnered West Ham's bid, were also delighted with the news.

Mayor of Newham Sir Robin Wales said: "We are pleased the Government has recognised the strength of our bid, which is focused on guaranteeing community benefits for our residents and contributing to a meaningful legacy for east London, the capital and the country.

"We are working with our partners West Ham United on the commercial aspects of our joint bid and look forward to a handover of contracts later this year with the Olympic Park Legacy Company."