West Ham stadium bid recieves backing from Jowell and Van Commenee
Tessa Jowell, the former Olympics minister and Charles van Commenee, UK Athletic’s head coach, are backing West Ham’s bid for the Olympic Stadium.
The Hammers face stiff competition from north London club Tottenham Hotspur to move into the 80,000-seater stadium in Stratford once the London 2012 Olympics are finished.
The two clubs have differing visions of the stadium’s post-Olympic future, with Spurs proposing it becomes a football-only venue with its running track removed.
But Labour minister Jowell says that would be unacceptable and believes West Ham’s plans, which would allow the stadium to be used for other sports including athletics and cricket.
Referring to the UK’s original bid document for the 2012 Games, she told the BBC: “If we broke that promise [to keep the track] it would be a very bad thing.
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Though she said it was a shame that two football clubs were the only options, she added: “Newham Council, together with West Ham commits to keep the athletics track, commits to external community involvement and is apparently commercially viable with partners Essex County Cricket Club and Live Nation.
“Therefore, they meet the five tests that we applied for the legacy use of the stadium, to the commitments we made in the bid book and the heavy commitment to community engagement.”
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Dutchman Van Commenee said the lack of a stadium capable of holding major athletics championships in London would put it behind every capital in Europe.
He said: “Is there any capital in Europe that can’t do this?
“Even Vilnius or Tallinn (the capitals of Lithuania and Estonia) can do that.”
“I’m astonished that there’s even a discussion, when a promise is made at the time that we made the bid.
“I think get on with it, ridiculous.”
But Simon Clegg, the chief executive of the British Olympic Association when London was awarded the Games, believes West Ham’s plans won’t work.
He said: “It is not compatible to have football and track and field athletics in the same stadium in this country.
“It’s madness to suggest we should keep a track just on the basis we may get an athletics World Championships or European Championships say once every 15-20 years.”