Olympic Park Legacy Design is Radically Revised

Olympic Park Legacy Design is Radically Revised

Is it more important to be popular, or to do the right thing?

Following leaks today suggesting the Olympic Park Legacy Company (OPLC) is poised to select West Ham as the next tenant for the Olympic Stadium, it appears the former is the priority; short-term popularity triumphing over long-term viability.

Pictured: The stadium is expected to be complete later this year

Sure selecting the struggling Premier League team – over rival Tottenham Hotspur – as the next occupant of the stadium makes political sense.

Sebastian Coe and those who sat beside him on the bid committee can nod piously as they claim all their promises have been met, regardless of the cost, while track and field athletes from across the UK will have a vast echoing stadium in which to test their shot put skills.

British honour will have been safeguarded, with the country narrowly avoiding becoming a pariah on the international stage, forever burdened with the broken promises of London 2012.

Although, following the recent debacle with FIFA it is questionable how much honour is worth in the international sports politics merry-go-round.

West Ham

But what of the longer term?

West Ham appear destined to be relegated from the Premier League this season. Who will fill the thousands of seats on offer at their new home once they are in the Championship?

The club has seen respectable crowds of 33,000 spectators at games this season – or 93 per cent of the capacity at Upton Park - but it is hard to imagine the audience near doubling during a season in the lower leagues.

Of course, West Ham may not get relegated, or may have returned to the Premier League by the time they takes possession of the stadium ahead of the 2013/14 season, but having spent an extended spell in the Championship just a few years ago this is far from assured.

It almost goes without saying a running track is also an impediment to the enjoyment of football, which may depress crowds further.

Welcoming Millwall to a half-empty stadium ringed with an unwanted track in two or three years, West Ham fans may begin to question the logic of the decision.


A decision on the future of the stadium is expected tomorrow

Tottenham Hotspur

Tottenham, in contrast, are presently enjoying their first season in the Champions League and are challenging for a return next year. Attendances are limited by the capacity of White Heart Lane.

Events organiser AEG is also on board – having rescued the ill-stared Millennium Dome – bringing a further successful dimension to the bid. World beating entertainment will fill the off season, virtually guaranteeing its viability.

Costs of the proposed stadium redevelopment – not to mention improvements to Crystal Palace athletics stadium – will also be met by the team; football wins, athletics wins.

This is the positive legacy east London needs, not a vast underused community centre providing a spectacular backdrop to school sports days.

Decision Time

Premiership football was given the cold shoulder by an Olympic Park Legacy Company desperate to ensure athletics was given a free run at the new venue.

When this proved untenable, bids from football clubs were grudging accepted. It is now time to complete the turnaround and prevent the mistakes of the past being projected into the future.

Chose West Ham and the OPLC is destined to create a monument to its own poor decision making at the heart of the Olympic Park, with a team in an unsuitable home it is unable to maintain.

Chose Tottenham and the body will suffer a short-term political loss, bad press and ire of West Ham fans, but it will have ensured a viable legacy for the site.