Bolt and Pele line up to back rival stadium bids
Cahal Milmo is the chief reporter of The Independent and has been with the paper since 2000. He was born in London and previously worked at the Press Association news agency. He has reported on assignment at home and abroad, including Rwanda, Sudan and Burkina Faso, the phone hacking scandal and the London Olympics. In his spare time he is a keen runner and cyclist, and keeps an allotment.
Saturday 22 January 2011
In the claret and blue corner is Usain Bolt, in the blue and white Pele.
The contest to earn preferred bidder status for the Olympic Stadium was furnished with a surreal touch on a frantic last day of claim and counter-claim between West Ham United and Tottenham and a variable cast of supporters.
The two clubs yesterday submitted their final bids to secure a new home, and their long-term futures, to the Olympic Park Legacy Company. This weekend Baroness Ford and Andrew Altman, the chair and chief executive of the OPLC, will begin the process of selecting the winner – or in the worst-case scenario rejecting both bids. The OPLC's board will meet on Friday with an announcement expected later that day, although the situation was further complicated yesterday when Tessa Sanderson, one of the board members, threatened to take legal action if her voting rights were not reinstated. Altman took her vote away after a potential conflict of interest was revealed; Sanderson has a consultancy contract with Newham Council, West Ham's bid partners. "I want to be back on there making the decision and I hope it doesn't come to it but I am willing to take legal action if necessary," Sanderson said.
Tottenham's bid included a bizarre supporting letter from Pele. He wrote: "I understand they [Tottenham's bid] are based on creating a dedicated football stadium and providing an athletics legacy at the original home of athletics (as I remember it!) Crystal Palace. That would be a great stadium. I really don't understand wanting to play with a track around the pitch. The players won't like it and it probably won't last."
Tottenham also adopted a more conventional approach with their chairman, Daniel Levy, publishing an open letter to the club's support explaining the north London club's reasons for moving east. He said that Spurs will consult with its supporters, a vocal number of whom have been angered by the proposal, "should we be selected as the preferred bidder".
Levy also outlined the concerns Tottenham have over developing White Hart Lane, doubting its "viability". "The one choice we do have is the choice between standing still or moving forward," Levy said.
Bolt tweeted his support for a running track to remain part of the post-Games stadium – as West Ham plan – a stance matched by a number of British athletes. "Football has overshadowed a lot of sport in this country and to allow that growing monster to crush the legacy of these Games would be devastating," said Steve Backley, a former Olympic medallist.
David Gold, West Ham's co-owner, underlined the main strength of his club's bid, holding true to the promises London made to secure the Games six years ago. "It's not a competition between Tottenham and West Ham," he said. "This is a competition between Tottenham and West Ham, Newham, athletics, cricket and the community. This is about keeping promises, the future, the community – it's a much bigger issue than money and football."
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