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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Jan, 12, 2011

Spurs go on offensive in stadium battle

Tottenham have launched a targeted assault on West Ham's bid for the Olympic Stadium as they finally broke their silence on their own plans to take over the site.

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Spurs confirmed they would demolish most of the 80,000-seater athletics arena and replace it with a 60,000-capacity purpose-built football venue if they won the bid and decided to relocate from White Hart Lane.

As expected, the club said they would also revamp the Crystal Palace athletics stadium to fulfil the legacy commitment made when Great Britain was awarded the 2012 Games.

West Ham have long been favourites to take over the Olympic Stadium after next year's Paralympics, with their bid backed by both London 2012 chairman Lord Coe and UK Athletics.

The Hammers have waged a very public campaign, while Spurs have been conspicuous only by their absence from the debate. That changed in dramatic fashion today, just over two weeks before the Olympic Park Legacy Company (OPLC) select their preferred bidder and less than two months before the final decision.

Spurs' architect and club vice-president David Keirle hit out at the myths and misinformation that have been circulated over the north Londoners' plans for the site, saying: "The debate, such as it is, has been one-sided because we've not entered into this. It's been very ill-informed.''

Keirle, chairman of leading architects KSS, criticised West Ham's plans to retain the Olympic Stadium at a reduced capacity of 60,000, claiming they risked turning it into something of a white elephant.

"There'd be nothing worse than, five years down the line, for a failing club not being able to meet its obligations because it's not getting 60,000, fans saying there's no atmosphere,'' he said, pointing out numerous problems with football being played in athletics stadia.

Keirle insisted Spurs' purpose-built ground would be far more sustainable and lucrative for the OPLC. He was also adamant Tottenham's plans for an athletics legacy were more viable than West Ham's, claiming the sport would benefit more by the rejuvenation of Crystal Palace than by retaining a 60,000-seater stadium they would struggle to fill and would only have access to outside the football season.

Spurs have promised to boost the capacity of Crystal Palace by 9,500 to 25,000, with the ability for it to be extended by up to 15,000 for a World Championship.

"We think that we will deliver a legacy with athletics at its core, 365 days a year,'' Keirle said, revealing the Tottenham also plan other ventures to increase participation in athletics.

Convincing the OPLC is only half the battle for Spurs, who continue to insist they will not decide between the Olympic Stadium move and the redevelopment of White Hart Lane until a preferred bidder is chosen. They face serious fan opposition if they decide to relocate, but the cost of the so-called Northumberland Development Project is also continuing to escalate.

It is estimated to be £450 million in total and the Olympic move would be around £200 million cheaper. Tottenham MP David Lammy and fan group 'We are N17' have led the protests to the Stratford move with their 'No to Stratford Hotspur' campaign.

Keirle said: "I was heavily involved in the Man City project. Nobody wanted to leave Maine Road. A few years down the line, nobody would ever go back. I've been looking at the chatrooms and there have been some quite emotive comments: 'I'll never go there'.

"But if Spurs plays a very big part in your life and they produce this wonderful stadium and they're winning then I would suspect those people would reconsider that down the line.''

Lammy responded to Tottenham's plans for the Olympic site, branding the scheme a "diabolical waste of public money''.

"It would be astonishing in these hard pressed times if the government and [London mayor] Boris Johnson will approve a bid that sees over half a billion pounds of public money down the drain after just a month,'' Lammy said in a statement.

"Now we know the full details of the Tottenham bid, I will be writing to Public Accounts Committee and the National Audit Office to demand an investigation if they are named the preferred bidder.

"I fully support the money spent on the Olympic Stadium, but for it to be only used for a month before being demolished is a diabolical waste of public money.''

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