An official decision isn’t expected until Friday, when officers from the Olympic Park Legacy Committee (OPLC) make their final recommendations to the board members, but “sources” privy to the decision-making process have briefed that the Irons’ bid is the only one to completely satisfy the requirements that the Games bequeath an athletic legacy to the capital. The Mayor and the Government will have the final say, but they are likely to go with the OPLC’s recommendation.
West Ham’s joint bid with Newham involves retaining the running track, spending £95 million to convert the stadium into a permanent, 60,000 seater football / athletics ground, and re-opening it as a multi-use arena, capable of hosting concerts and events, alongside other sports such as cricket and rubgy. The rival bid, by Tottenham and AEG, planned to build a new stadium on the site, and redevelop the National Sports Centre in Crystal Palace as a dedicated athletics stadium.
In recent weeks the battle for the site has turned increasingly bitter, with splenetic accusations flying on both sides. In the Evening Standard, the respective chairmen were allowed to plead their case: Daniel Levy derided the idea of playing in a ground with a running track and suggested that West Ham’s bid would leave the stadium a white elephant, while Hammers co-owner David Sullivan played for the crowds with an emotional appeal that invoked a “promise made in the Queen’s name”. Last year Sullivan also suggested that Tottenham’s encroachment into his team’s manor would lead to riots.
Despite West Ham’s apparent win, the matter isn’t yet closed. Spurs may launch a judicial review of the decision, and the precarity of the Hammers’ league position, plus their need to raise additional funds for the conversion work, might yet prompt the OPLC to change their minds. Tottenham have good reason to fight on: they’ve abandoned plans to build a new stadium in Northumberland Park, and the Olympic site is their only other option at present. Even if the predictions are correct and West Ham are announced as the bid winners tomorrow, this debacle isn’t quite over yet.