A new suitor has joined the increasingly complex story around the future of the Olympic stadium: Crystal Palace F.C.
The Croydon club isn't planning a bid to move into the ground post-2012; not even their long-suffering supporters would welcome a ten mile, cross-river trip to see their team play in an underpopulated bowl. However, this week Palace's owners are set to unveil plans for a new home, which is widely expected to be on the site of the National Sports Centre in Crystal Palace Park.
Though based at Selhurst Park since 1924, in the pre-WW1 years Palace played their football in the grounds of their namesake (it was workers on the site who founded the club) and have long favoured a move back, as there is little chance of significantly redeveloping their current dilapidated home.
Palace's plan is a studs-up sliding tackle to Tottenham's proposal: the north London club want to demolish the Olympic stadium and fund the redevelopment of the National Sports Centre, thus dispensing with the need for that troublesome athletics legacy. The club's joint bid with entertainment group AEG is the main rival to that of West Ham and Newham Council, who have said they would keep the athletics track.
Tottenham's plan has been criticised by West Ham's chairman, their own supporters, IOC officialdom, and anybody who questions the wisdom of splashing over £500 million quid on a stadium only to tear it down after a few weeks. A rare defence has been offered by Amanda Baillieu, editor of Building Design magazine: she argues that a naive approach to sustainability (such as the bizarre idea to send the seats to Chicago) has scuppered the project from the beginning, and that it would be better to raze it and start again than settle for a poor football stadium with a token athletics legacy.
Final bids from West Ham and Tottenham will be submitted to the Olympic Park Legacy Committee this week, and the winner will be announced on 28 January.
Photo / C.P.G. Grey