AEG-Spurs don't want track in Olympic Stadium

October 5, 2010

American sports and entertainment giant AEG has no plans of retaining the running track in London's Olympic Stadium if it wins its joint bid with Premier club Tottenham to move into the venue after the 2012 Games.

AEG's proposal goes against the repeated pledge by London Olympic organizers to keep track and field as a permanent feature of the $853 million stadium.

Revealing details of the bid for the first time Tuesday, AEG president Tim Leiweke said it wouldn't make economic sense to keep the stadium geared for athletics after the Olympics because of a lack of major track and field events.

''I think it's a crime if you sacrifice having a perfect football stadium for convincing yourself you are going to do a track and field event every 10 years ... that can't stand on its own two feet,'' Leiweke told The Associated Press after speaking at a sports industry meeting. ''There are very few stand-alone track and field events that pay for themselves to use a whole stadium.''


The 80,000-seat stadium will host the opening and closing ceremonies and the athletics competition during the Olympics. It was originally designed to be downsized after the games to a 25,000-seat arena, mainly for track events, but various options are under consideration.

AEG, which revived the former Millennium Dome into the O2 Arena, proposes a 60,000-capacity post-Olympics venue. The company believes that a running track would keep soccer fans too far from the playing field.

''With football, you're going to get 30-plus matches a year and you'll be able to talk about naming rights and founding partners and suites and the revenue streams to make these kind of venues work,'' Leiweke said.

AEG also considered a bid with West Ham, whose Upton Park ground is closer to the Olympic Stadium than Tottenham's White Hart Lane, but decided Spurs were more capable of filling 60,000 seats for matches.

West Ham has submitted its own application to the Olympic Park Legacy Company, which will decide the future of the stadium. The club commits to keeping the track, meeting a pledge made to the International Olympic Committee by London organizers at the time of bidding for the games.

When the bidding process for the stadium opened in August, the Olympic Park Legacy Company didn't oblige bidders to retain a running track in their plans.

AEG expects Tottenham to contribute the majority of the several hundred million dollars it will cost to relocate from north to east London - a move which could anger Spurs fans and West Ham believes could breach Premier League rules.

At the same time Tottenham's bid with AEG was submitted last week, the club was also granted planning permission by the local government to build a 56,250-capacity stadium adjacent to its White Hart Lane.

The legacy company, which hopes to identify a preferred tenant by December and have a long-term lease agreement signed by March, has not revealed how many bids its received.

AEG Europe chief executive David Campbell believes there are ''two other credible bids, but there could be 30 bids overall.''

The Olympic Stadium sits on a 560-acre site in a once rundown industrial swath of east London and is part of one of Britain's biggest renovation projects in decades.