AEG, the US sports and entertainment giant who run The 02, has declared an interest in taking over the Olympic Stadium after the 2012 Games.
The company joins a 106-strong list of parties vying to run the £537m stadium alongside the likes of West Ham and Newham Council. The joint bid between the Premier League club and the local council had been seen as the favourite but the involvement of such a large-scale player as AEG adds hugely to the options available to the Olympic Park Legacy Company and its chair, Baroness Ford. Ford was instrumental in the deal that saw AEG take over the Dome during her time working as a government adviser.
"Creating an ongoing success in east London will not be easy," said David Campbell, chief executive of AEG Europe. "However, we have turned the Millennium Dome into the world's most successful venue in the form of The O2 and think we understand east London better than most."
Interested parties have until 17 May to declare an interest before a shortlist of 30 is announced in July. The original plan had been to reduce the stadium from 80,000 to a 25,000-capacity athletics arena. Converting it to use for football is estimated to cost £100m, but AEG have yet to release details of their plans. The LA-based group include Los Angeles Galaxy and the Staples Center among its portfolio as well as stadia and arenas in China, Australia and Europe.
Meanwhile, Sebastian Coe, chairman of the London organising committee, has welcomed the backing of Sainsbury's, who have become the largest sponsor in Paralympics history after agreeing a multi-million pound deal to back the 2012 Games, as another example of the success in attracting deals in a harsh financial environment. "We are in very good shape," said Coe. "It is the most challenging time since the 70s to deliver an Olympics."