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Hammers 'committed' to Olympic stadium

West Ham has vowed that relegation from the Premier League will not scupper its plans to move into the Olympic Stadium

Whatever the impact of demotion on the Hammers’ already fragile finances, it will not changes plans to make the £486 million, Populous-designed stadium its new home after the London 2012 Games, according to West Ham.

A spokesman said: ‘We remain totally committed to it. Our target is to move there in three football seasons time and we would hope that we would return to the Premier League as soon as possible.

‘Our bid (to move into the stadium) was based on several different areas. It was modelled on Premier League, Championship and different scenarios - that has been the case from day one.

‘As far as our plans for the Olympic Stadium are concerned, we are continuing at a pace.

‘All things are connected but the club will obviously set about rebuilding so that we are in a position to challenge at the highest level in the Championship and get back into the Premier League as soon as possible.

“No doubt we will be doing things in the coming weeks in order to prepare the club to hopefully get back. We just have to get on with it.”

Avram Grant was sacked as manager just over an hour after the 3-2 defeat at fellow strugglers Wigan, West Ham’s 18th league loss, sealed their relegation.

The Hammers, in a joint bid with Newham Council, intend to convert the 80,000-seater stadium into a 60,000-seater stadium, keeping an athletics track.

The club plans to move from Upton Park in 2014-15 with a 250-year lease and to give a 250-year lease to UK Athletics (UKA). They have begun a competitive tender, which could take at least three months to complete, to find contractors to convert the stadium.

They are also still discussing a deal with the Olympic Park Legacy Company in order to move to the stadium.

They are pressing ahead with talks in the face of possible judicial reviews by Tottenham Hotspur and Leyton Orient over the way in which they became preferred bidder to move into the venue.

Last month Spurs, who were beaten by West Ham to become the preferred bidder, applied for a judicial review of Newham Council’s role in arranging a £40 million loan to finance West Ham’s move.

The club has widened the appeal and asked the High Court to start a separate judicial review into the roles of several other parties involved in awarding West Ham the stadium.

In March, Spurs wrote letters to all parties involved in the process, demanding answers about how the decision was reached.

The club applied for judicial review in relation to Newham Council after receiving what it said were unacceptable answers.

Last month Leyton Orient also demanded a judicial review of Newham’s role in partnering West Ham’s bid.

Previous story (10.02.11)

Hammers ‘committed’ to Olympic stadium

Officials will gather tomorrow to discuss the future of the Olympic Stadium following the 2012 games, amid claims that Premier League football club West Ham have already won the race to take it over

Reports have indicated that officers from the Olympic Park Legacy Company (OPLC) favour the east London club’s relocation proposals over north London rivals Tottenham, and are set to recommend their bid to the 14 voting board members.

The claims have been dismissed as “pure speculation” by the OPLC, while sources at both football clubs said they had had no confirmation from the company that a recommendation had been made.

A OPLC spokesman said: “It is pure speculation to say that a decision has been made. Our board meets on Friday. There will be presentations by OPLC officers of both bids and a vote to recommend a preferred bidder.”

The meeting could take up to three hours and a final decision will have to get the go-ahead from the Government and the London Mayor.

The differences between the two bids for the showpiece £537 million venue in Stratford, east London, centre on the running track - West Ham would keep it while Tottenham would not.

An athletics legacy was a key pledge that London made to the International Olympic Committee when it won the right to stage the 2012 Games.

West Ham, in a joint bid with Newham Council, want to convert the 80,000-seater stadium into a 60,000-capacity arena for football, athletics, concerts and community use.

The contest has become a bitter war of words in recent days.

Tottenham’s proposed 60,000-seat new home would be built in place of the Olympic Stadium prompting West Ham vice chairman Karren Brady to declare it would be ‘a corporate crime to bring the bulldozers in’.

If successful Tottenham, joint bidders with sports and entertainment giant AEG, intend to refurbish an old athletics centre at Crystal Palace as a 25,000-capacity venue for track and field.

Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy dismissed criticism about its bid as ‘scaremongering’, adding: ‘We are proposing one of the most advanced, state-of-the-art stadiums in Europe that will deliver an exceptional spectator experience.’

The aim is for a deal to be struck on the stadium and contracts signed by the end of the financial year.

Postscript

Speaking on Radio 5 live this morning (10.02.11), shadow minister for the Olympics Tessa Jowell said: ‘I have been involved in this every step of the way. If it is the decision, it is the right decision. It meets the promises to athletics - a multi-use stadium with athletics at its core.

‘I beleive three out of the last four World Cup stadia have combined athletes tracks with football [facilities]. If West Ham FC are prepared to move in under the strictures of the Olympic bid [to maintain athletics at the stadium] it would be a great outcome. Our [world] reputation would have been damaged if we had broken that promise.’

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