West Ham secure Olympic Stadium
West Ham United have been named as the preferred bidders for the Olympic Stadium, giving the East London club victory in their embittered battle with Tottenham Hotspur for the site in Stratford.
The Olympic Park Legacy Company (OPLC) confirmed on Friday morning that West Ham's proposal to occupy the stadium, and retain a running track, was deemed to best satisfy the criteria for providing an athletics legacy and that the board had voted unanimously for the club's bid.
Tottenham had proposed to rebuild the venue as a football arena, as well as redeveloping Crystal Palace athletics stadium. However, the North London club, in conjunction with American entertainment company AEG, have seen their ambitions to move across the capital thwarted.
Instead it is West Ham who will move into the stadium located in their home borough of Newham, if Friday's decision is ratified by London mayor Boris Johnson and the national Government.
West Ham chairman Karren Brady told the club's official website: "Today is a momentous day. I would like to thank the Olympic Park Legacy Company for making us preferred bidder and acknowledge everyone involved in what has been a truly professional process.
"I would also like to recognise the significant contribution of Newham Council, who have shared in our exciting vision from day one, and thank our supporters for trusting in us to take West Ham United to a new level.
"We are proud to have been passed the Olympic torch and fully embrace the responsibility we have for keeping the flame alive. We have been working on this project for some time now and are just at the starting line of the race to make this a stadium that will really make the nation proud.
"The club is run by supporters and today is another great day in our proud history. This will be your stadium and an atmospheric home for generations to come. Our vision is to move forward always with an eye on the past. We have been granted a once in a lifetime opportunity to grow our club in a way its huge fan base deserves and to really give something back to the community of which it is such an intrinsic part. The nation has kept its promise and we'll keep ours. I promise.''
West Ham arrived victorious because they fulfilled all five criteria in the tender: value for money, ability to deliver, to reopen as rapidly as possible, to ensure the stadium remains "a distinctive physical symbol" and to allow "flexible use of the stadium" for elite sport, the public, schools and community groups.
West Ham plan to move in before the 2014-15 season and estimate it will cost in the region of £95 million to convert the stadium following the completion of the 2012 games. Bid partner Newham Council will contribute £40 million of that in the form of a loan, though it will not leave the taxpayer out of pocket.
A source close to the bid told ESPNsoccernet: "Newham are not giving £40 million, and it will not cost the tax payers £40 million. This is a complete misunderstanding of the joint West Ham United/ Newham bid. They are loaning the money to West Ham, and getting interest and total repayment of the £40 million.
"West Ham are actually giving the consortium £20 million from the sale of Upton Park. This is never repaid to West Ham. It's a good deal for Newham. As its a loan it in no way impacts on the council's budgets."
Sir Robin Wales, mayor of Newham, said: "We are delighted by the announcement. We think this decision is the right one and the nation will be the biggest winner. We are pleased the OPLC has recognised our bid. London won the right to host the Olympics by making a promise to leave a lasting legacy, not just for us and our children but for future generations. It will inspire people in Newham and beyond.
"We were delighted when public opinion supported this view, and this overwhelming public support has been recognised by the OPLC. Our bid is about giving something back to the community, to London and the country. We will make the stadium a magnet for visitors across Britain, Europe and the world, to view and participate in a wide range of sport and entertainment fixtures."
News that West Ham had been successful in their bid leaked out on Wednesday night, but Friday's news finally ends a dispute between the Hammers and Spurs that has become increasingly torrid.
In the past week alone, Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy accused West Ham of "scaremongering", while Hammers vice-chairman Karren Brady said Spurs' plan to "bring the bulldozers in" was tantamount to "a corporate crime".
However, barring an unexpected political intervention, it is the Hammers who will move into the Olympic site in 2012, leaving Spurs to contemplate once again the redevelopment of White Hart Lane, or alternative options such as a possible judicial review.
A statement from Tottenham read: "The Olympic Stadium site is an essential element in the creation of a viable Olympic Park and we know that, together with AEG, we provided a first class proposal to support the sustainability of the whole project.
"It was never an option, however, that we would retain the running track as we believe this to be unacceptable for our supporters and therefore wholly unviable in the long term. It carries with it the major risk of being incapable of delivering a lasting legacy without further calls on the public purse or a requirement for changes to the stadium and track at a later date.
"Much has been made of the promise to keep the athletics track within the Olympic Stadium and, therefore, we should all expect to see the retention of this track firmly embedded and legally guaranteed by those entrusted with this legacy commitment, today and in the future.
"We submitted an honest bid with the only solution we considered capable of delivering lasting regeneration, a significant return to the public purse and wide-ranging benefits to the local communities and to London.
"The OPLC's decision has still to be approved by two Government departments and the Mayor's Office. We shall continue to monitor the bid process over the coming weeks up until its final determination, whilst reviewing our position and holding discussions with our advisors. We shall spend time assessing our situation in respect of a new stadium and when we have any further information we shall update our supporters."