Despite Huge Expense, London's Olympic Stadium Could Be Torn Down After 2012 Games

dec stadium photo

Photo: B. Alter: Stadium, December, 2010

The London 2012 Olympics' claim to be the greenest ever is coming under threat almost daily. The plans for recycling and re-using the new buildings were impressive but a huge controversy has developed over the future of the 80,000 seat Olympic stadium.

The original commitment was that it would be retained and used as a football (soccer) club's new home with community facilities provided. Instead, two teams are bidding for it and one wants to knock it down and build a new stadium in its place. What kind of waste is this...


Photo: B. Alter: Aquatics Centre, December, 2010

Part of London's Olympic bid for the games was the commitment that the Olympic Stadium would be retained for the British public. It would be transformed from an 80,000 seat arena to a 25,000 seat one with permanent athletic facilities. It would not be a white elephant, as most other Olympic stadia have turned out to be.

But how it would be funded and kept going after the Games was never really sorted out. Given that it would have a state-of-the-art running track, there was a vague notion that this would be the focus.

The stadium, now under construction, officially will cost £500 million, which in terms of cost per seat makes it the most expensive stadium in the world.

However someone has to pay the rent so now the Olympic Park Legacy Company has turned to football (soccer) as its saviour.

Two competing teams want to buy the stadium: Tottenham Hotspur and West Ham United. The two clubs have very different views of how to handle the huge space.

spurs stay photo

Photo: BBC News
Tottenham Hotspur's plan is to raze the stadium to the ground after the Olympics and replace it with a purpose-built football stadium without a running track. The architect working on Tottenham's plans defends the destruction of it, saying that it was not suitable for football with most of the seats too far from the pitch. "It's not entirely demolition," he said. "We will be using some of the undercroft (cellar) but we're not using much."

West Ham's proposal would decrease the size of the existing stadium and marry a 60,000-seater football stadium with an athletics track. However the club does not have a sound financial basis to its bid and more than £100 million would be required to add a roof, toilets and corporate entertainment facilities. It would house cricket and running but the other sports would only get access when football was not being played.

Emotions are running high; the athletic community has its view. Said the president of the IAAF (International Association of Athletics Federation), "any future for the Olympic Stadium that did not include a running track - a legacy heavily sold when London secured the Games - would be a "big lie."

The chairman of the London 2012 Olympic Committee, Sebastian Coe, said: "It's serious we deliver what we said we were going to unless we're prepared to trash our reputation. It'd be very difficult for us to be taken seriously in the corridors of world sport and arguably beyond."

Pulling down the stadium would waste a fortune in taxpayers' money at a time of unprecedented austerity. It would also betray the legacy of the Games which was such a big turning point in London's successful bid.

Both clubs have submitted bids. The board of the Olympic Park Legacy Company will have to choose between the two over the next few weeks.

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