Olympic Stadium re-opening branded a 'Stratford farce' by UK Athletics chairman


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The Independent Online

The delay in re-opening the Olympic Stadium has been described as a “Stratford farce” by Ed Warner, the chairman of UK Athletics.

The delay could mean the stadium is not ready to host events until 2016, as the London Legacy Development Corporation reiterated today, meaning it will have taken longer to convert for its post-Games use than it took to build – and may not be ready until after the opening ceremony for the Rio Games.

A decision over which of the four bidders will be given a 99-year lease is expected early next month – with pressure to get contracts signed by the end of the year to allow the re-construction process to be put out for tender early next year – with West Ham United the strong favourites.

But the ever-lengthening delay has been sharply criticised by Warner, who believes it it also puts the Mayor of London Boris Johnson’s reputation at risk. Johnson recently took over responsibility for plotting the stadium’s future.

“This is fast becoming a Stratford farce,” said Warner. “West Ham have been phenomenally patient over the last few months. I would urge those making the decision to please get on and do it. Get it open.

“I’m delighted Boris has taken direct control but he has put himself at risk in that regard because this could end up with his mayoralty ending in 2016 with the stadium not being open.”

The delay is in part due to negotiations over who will pay for the conversion cost. There is £38m of government money set aside but installing retractable seating and extending the roof, as well as reducing the capacity from 80,000 to 60,000, is expected to require around £180m.

Warner, who is also in charge of overseeing the 2017 world championships scheduled to be held in the stadium, was speaking at the launch of a £27m programme of investment by UK Sport, which oversees elite Olympic and Paralympic sport, aimed at hosting a succession of major sporting events in this country to build on the success of the Olympics. The 2017 world athletic championships is the most high profile event already secured – a bid was yesterday announced for the 2017 Paralympic World Championships which would also take place in the Olympic Stadium a few weeks before the athletics.

Britain are also expected to secure the European swimming championships in 2016 and are also bidding for the world track cycling championships in the same year. There is also a bid in to host the women’s world boxing championships.