Shot­gun wed­ding may re­sult in a short-lived mar­riage

The Herald - Herald Sport - - Olympics - Picture: PA

and feel­ing like home to our de­serv­ing fans”. We should con­sider a few points. Given the scale of ex­pen­di­ture and plan­ning, why was long-term fu­ture not fac­tored in from the start? This would have pre­vented the risk of a na­tional as­set be­ing sold for peanuts. Or worse, be­com­ing a white elephant.

Are West Ham de­serv­ing of this sta­dium? World class? They are not yet Premier League class. They are third in the npower Cham­pi­onship, with­out a win in their last five home matches, and far from sure of pro­mo­tion. Their av­er­age Up­ton Park gate is 28,800. They want to move some four miles to the Olympic sta­dium in Strat­ford where ca­pac­ity will be 60,000 – af­ter it has been mod­i­fied down from 80,000, adap­ta­tion which will cost some £50m.

Who’s pay­ing? That’s un­clear. Ne­wham Coun­cil are con­sid­er­ing in­vest­ing £40m, “sub­ject to an ap­pro­pri­ate and ac­cept­able re­turn”. Will due dili­gence be done on West Ham? Portsmouth and Rangers il­lus­trate why there must be con­fi­dence that the bub­ble will not burst. Fu­ture in­come pred­i­cated on sales of hos­pi­tal­ity pack­ages and sea­son tick­ets is spec­u­la­tive.

Ms Brady made some of the right noises: “Our vi­sion for the sta­dium has al­ways been about stand­ing up for the prom­ises made for London back in Sin­ga­pore in 2005 [when London won the right to host] and what they meant for our fu­ture gen­er­a­tions ... we are hon­oured to have once more re­ceived the sup­port and back­ing of our friends at UK Ath­let­ics.”

The ath­let­ics body was un­equiv­o­cal, but they are be­tween a rock and a hard ham­mer. Claire Fur­long, head of com­mu­ni­ca­tions, said it was “frus­trat­ing to have to go through the process again” but in­sisted last night that the fu­ture of track and field in the sta­dium was “ab­so­lutely wa­ter­tight”.

“We have our 99-year lease agree­ment. We be­lieve West Ham are the right so­lu­tion. We have been in part­ner­ship for such a long time, and we’re ef­fec­tively all in it to­gether. Is the track legacy in jeop­ardy? No it’s not.”

They have writ­ten a let­ter to the Legacy Com­pany “re­it­er­at­ing our sup­port for West Ham. This is the right op­tion”. Hope­fully so. But there’s a his­tory of ma­jor ath­let­ics fa­cil­i­ties be­ing butchered to ac­com­mo­date other sports, and com­mer­cial re­al­ity is harsh.

Sta­dium Australia, the Syd­ney Olympic 2000 venue, re­moved the run­ning track a year later. Bei­jing’s Bird­snest has strug­gled for eco­nomic vi­a­bil­ity; Athens’ 2004 field of dreams is now a bank­rupt nightmare; the 1996 At­lanta Olympic sta­dium was im­me­di­ately con­verted to base­ball; Manch­ester lost the 2002 Com­mon­wealth ath­let­ics venue to foot­ball, with lit­tle bet­ter than a club fa­cil­ity re­main­ing in the warm-up track. When the Melbourne Cricket Ground hosted the 2006 Com­mon­wealth Games, it was the first time there had been ath­let­ics there since the 1956 Olympics; Bay­ern Mu­nich adopted the 1972 Olympic sta­dium, but al­ways hated it be­cause the pitch was too far from the crowd.

That’s the heart of the con­flict. Ham­p­den, Ibrox, and Celtic Park all once had run­ning tracks. All are now gone. Ham­p­den’s will be re­stored for the 2014 Com­mon­wealth Games, then speed­ily ripped out. The suc­cess­ful London bid­der will be re­vealed in May, the aim be­ing to re­open the re­con­fig­ured sta­dium in 2014. Foot­ball and ath­let­ics are a proven un­happy mar­riage. I bet this shot­gun wed­ding in Strat­ford doesn’t reach any­thing ap­proach­ing a 99th an­niver­sary.

West Ham jumped in with an 11th-hour bid for ten­ancy of the Olympic Sta­dium.

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