Inside Lines: Whistle is yet to blow on saga of Olympic Stadium

Growing pressure to re-open the debate about possible ground-sharing

Alan Hubbard
Saturday 01 November 2014 20:18 GMT
Smoke could be seen rising from the Olympic Stadium. Photo: Adam Rivers
Smoke could be seen rising from the Olympic Stadium. Photo: Adam Rivers (AdamRivers/Twitter)

Extra-time is being played in the ongoing saga of the future of the Olympic Stadium. While the long-term tenancy of West Ham United is secure, there is growing pressure to re-open the debate about possible ground-sharing and to make the venue more economically viable.

Andrew Boff, leader of the Conservatives on the Greater London Authority (GLA) is asking the London Legacy Development Corporation to reconsider what he argues is “a poor deal for the taxpayer”.

Although sources close to mayor Boris Johnson say he is sympathetic to those who want to see the stadium more profitably occupied, West Ham’s vice-chair, Baroness Brady of Knightsbridge, continues to make it clear the club will veto even temporary ground-sharing with Tottenham or any other club.

If West Ham can get into Europe by 2016 it would be a welcome bonus for a stadium whose costs are going through the roof, with work needed mainly to strengthen that particular piece of construction requiring an additional £36 million. This takes the total spend on converting the stadium for football and occasional athletics use so far to £619m.

The Stratford venue is due to host five matches at next year’s Rugby World Cup before becoming West Ham’s permanent home. But the danger is that it will still be vastly underused. Which is why there is pressure for other major football fixtures to be held there. What about the Capital One Cup, England Under-21 and women’s internationals, for instance?

Brazil want an Oscar

The International Olympic Committee members are a notoriously forgiving bunch, as many drugs cheats and corrupt officials will testify. While the International Paralympic Committee rightly say Oscar Pistorius will be banned from their Rio Games even if he does not serve his full five-year jail term for shooting dead girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, the IOC is staying schtum on the possibility of him taking part in the able-bodied events. Now we learn that the organisers of Rio 2016 say the disgraced Blade Runner “will be welcome in Brazil like anyone else”.

Executioner for chop

Bernard Hopkins, a ring legend and oldest boxer to win a world title, will be two months shy of his 50th birthday when he meets the Russian Sergey Kovalev in a light-heavyweight unification. bout in Atlantic City next Saturday. “The Executioner” faces one of the burgeoning breed of beasts from the east in “Krusher” Kovalev, last seen here brutalising the hitherto unbeaten Nathan Cleverly. Hopkins as been one of boxing’s greats, but I fear it is time for “The Executioner” to get the chop.

Ladies are lording it

Helen Grant, in feisty form at last week’s Women in Sport Conference at Lord’s, seems to be finding her voice. Good to see, too, that the Sports Minister’s support of our campaign on behalf of basketball and other sports deprived of funding has brought a rethink. UK Sport’s policy has always been “no compromise”. Now it appears there will be one.


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