The track will remain at London's Olympic Stadium in any transformation of the stadium by a football club post-Games (Getty)
(ATR) Britain's Olympics minister Hugh Robertson confirms the
collapse of the Olympic Park Legacy Company's agreement with West Ham to take over the 80,000-seat 2012 stadium after the Games.
The OPLC announced Tuesday that negotiations with
the east London football club, unveiled as the preferred stadium bidder in February, had
ended because of growing concerns over delays caused by the ongoing
legal dispute with rival club Tottenham Hotspur.
West Ham had not signed any contracts, allowing the OPLC to abandon
talks with the club. The stadium, which cost an estimated
$760 million, will now remain in public ownership and leased out to an
anchor tenant following a new tender process.
"The key point is the action we have taken today is about removing the
uncertainty. The process had become bogged down in legal paralysis," Robertson told PA Sport.
"Particularly relevant has been the anonymous complaint to the EC over 'state aid' and the OPLC received a letter from Newham Council yesterday saying because of the uncertainty they no longer wanted to proceed," he added.
"That was the straw that broke the camel's back and we thought it better to stop it dead in it tracks now.
"We know there is huge interest in the stadium out there from private operators and football clubs and crucially we remove any uncertainty."
The IOC told Around the Rings
that it was not commenting on the collapse of the Olympic Stadium's legacy deal, saying it was a matter for the OPLC.
But UK Athletics welcomed today's announcement, which underlines the British government's commitment to retaining the athletics track and provides another boost for the London 2017 IAAF world athletics bid.
“This decision has provided absolute clarity for everyone involved. It guarantees the athletics legacy pledged as part of our Olympic bid, and ensures the stadium will be able to host world class athletics from the summer of 2014," UKA chairman Ed Warner said in a statement.
"It is very good news for our bid to host the IAAF World Athletics Championships in 2017 as it further reinforces the guarantees provided by the London 2017 bid team to last week’s IAAF evaluation commission."
He added that the post-Games plans for the stadium remain unaltered. "It will be remodelled as a 60,000-seat arena, fully roofed, with an adjacent warm-up track. We look forward to welcoming the Aviva London Grand Prix to the stadium in 2014 and to hosting the World Championships in 2017, if the IAAF does us the honor of awarding the event to the UK."
West Ham Still Keen on Stadium Move
Despite the collapse of West Ham's stadium deal, the club's vice-chairman Karren Brady said they are still keen to move to the venue.
West Ham's Brady released a joint statement with the London borough of Newham ahead of a statement from the U.K. government's department for culture, media and sport (DCMS).
"Uncertainty caused by the anonymous complaint to the European Commission and ongoing legal challenges have put the Olympic legacy at risk and certainly a stadium, as we envisioned it, may not be in place by 2014 due as a direct result of the legal delay," Brady said.
"Therefore we would welcome a move by OPLC and government to end that uncertainty and allow a football and athletics stadium to be in place by 2014 under a new process.
"If the speculation is true, West Ham will look to become a tenant of the stadium while Newham will aim to help deliver the legacy.
"Our bid is the only one that will secure the sporting and community legacy promise of the Olympic Stadium - an amazing year-round home for football, athletics and community events of which the nation could be proud."
Tottenham Hotspur and Leyton Orient are opposed
West Ham could rent the stadium for $3 million a year if they are successful in a new bid for the venue (Getty)
to the OPLC's decision to hand the stadium to West Ham; a judicial review was scheduled for the High Court next Tuesday. Their opposition mainly revolves around West Ham's plans to use a $63 million loan from Newham Council to finance the stadium move.
An anonymous complaint to European Commission over what effectively amounts to state aid raised fears the legal challenges could drag on leaving the 80,000-seat Olympic Stadium as a white elephant.
In the DCMS statement released lunchtime, the government confirmed that the $55 million cost of transforming the stadium after the Olympics to a 60,000-seater was already budgeted for within the $15 billion public sector funding package for the Games.
"Athletics will remain at the heart of the facility, as has been promised as part of the 2017 World Athletics Championship bid, but the OPLC will also seek leasehold football tenants as well as considering alternative options," the DCMS statement said.
"This ownership model is used very successfully in other stadiums in the country and across Europe and is also in keeping with other venues in the Olympic Park."
Under West Ham's original plans to reconfigure the stadium after the Olympics, the club had planned to reduce the capacity to 60,000, retain the track and turn it into a multipurpose venue.
After relegation from the top-flight of English football last season, the terms of a new arrangement would put less pressure on West Ham's finances. The stadium could cost as little as $3 million a year to lease.
But a fresh Hammers bid for the stadium is likely to trigger significant concerns among West Ham fans, who will argue that they should not be moving to a new stadium they cannot call their own.
Reported by Mark Bisson
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