London Olympic Stadium deal collapses
The future of London’s Olympic Stadium will be opened up to a
new bidding process after a deal to award the flagship venue to
West Ham soccer club was scrapped Tuesday amid ”legal
The British government was forced to abandon its long-term
solution for the $760 million stadium amid concerns the venue could
remain empty for years after the 2012 Olympics.
The stadium will remain in public ownership after the 2012
Olympics and be rented out to an anchor tenant, the government
West Ham said it will bid again and the new terms will be more
financially favorable for the club recently relegated from the
Premier League. A $31 million up-front payment will be replaced by
smaller annual rent.
London Mayor Boris Johnson said the stadium will ”almost
certainly” go to West Ham and will definitely retain the running
track that losing bidder Tottenham wanted to rip out.
The drawn-out wrangling for control of the stadium has been
increasingly acrimonious since West Ham was selected ahead of
Tottenham in February as the preferred long-term tenant.
”The process to sell the stadium has become bogged down. We are
acting today to end the legal paralysis that has put that legacy at
risk,” Sports Minister Hugh Robertson said. ”Ending the current
sale process and looking for a leasehold solution will remove the
current uncertainty and allows us to help secure the future use of
the stadium with more confidence.”
Tottenham mounted a full legal challenge against the decision by
West Ham’s local authority to provide a $63 million loan to fund
the second-tier club’s move into the stadium. The case was due to
be heard in court next week, but appeals could have dragged on for
”That could have put at risk the reopening of the stadium in
2014,” Robertson said.
Johnson said the move would put an end to ”the great deal of
legal to-ing and fro-ing” over the stadium, which West Ham wants
to downsize from an 80,000 to a 60,000-seat capacity. Some $55
million has already earmarked under the Olympic budget to downsize
”We will keep it in public hands,” he said. ”We will
effectively rent it to a football club, almost certainly West Ham,
and that will cover the costs. I think it will be a very, very good
deal for the taxpayer.
”The crucial thing is it will simultaneously deliver a football
solution for the stadium and an athletics legacy at the same
John Biggs, a city council member representing the area that
hosts the stadium, described the collapse of the deal as ”a fiasco
and a tremendous waste of public money.”
Fourth-tier east London club Leyton Orient was also challenging
the decision, while an anonymous complaint to the European
Commission about the apparent use of Newham Council funds by West
Ham fueled concerns that the legal disputes could drag on for
One certainty is that the running track will remain in the
stadium regardless of the outcome, with London bidding to host the
2017 world track and field championships.
”It’s fantastic for UK Athletics and it is a bold and decisive
move by the legacy company,” UK Athletics chairman Ed Warner
Leyton Orient chairman Barry Hearn confirmed his club would also
bid for the stadium, including the possibility of sharing the
ground with another club.
”The OPLC have finally listened to someone with common sense
and said, ‘We messed it up before, let’s not mess it up again.’ The
whole process starts now,” Hearn said.