AEG boss: Spurs stadium bid best for athletics

LONDON - Athletics will lose out in the long term if Tottenham Hotspur fail in a bid to take over the London 2012 Olympic Stadium after the Games, the head of American entertainment giant AEG has warned.

Tim Leiweke said his organisation would be willing to spend aggressively to bring major events to the stadium in east London if their joint application with the Premier League football club was favoured.

What he would not do, the AEG president told reporters in a conference call from Los Angeles, was pretend that football and track and field could co-exist successfully in the same facility - the central pillar of a rival bid by West Ham United.

The Olympic Park Legacy Company is expected to decide within the next week.

"We're excited about the project but I would rather lose it than deceive people," said Leiweke, whose company transformed the Millennium Dome from white elephant into the highly successful 02 Arena.

"I would rather lose it than create unrealistic expectations, and I would rather lose it than commit to a project that we know economically will not be viable long term."

Tottenham and AEG want to replace the 500 million pounds stadium with a purpose-built 60,000-seat football ground without a running track and have said they will use as much of the infrastructure as possible rather than simply demolishing it.

To fulfil the London Olympic legacy promise, they intend to revamp the Crystal Palace track and field venue in south London as a 25,000 seat stadium.

West Ham, in partnership with the local council, have promised to retain the athletics track if they move into the Olympic stadium after 2012.


Leiweke said that would not work for either sport.

"If you want the right legacy for track and field, it should be building the right kind of facility with the right kind of capacity at the right place," he said.

"What they are trying to do is force what they think is a legacy for track and field into a football stadium at the cost of the experience of the number one economic generator for that project.

"And guess what? It won't work for track and field either.

"People may not like to hear that, but if legacy has its proper place then let's deal with the reality," he added.

"The worst thing for the legacy of track and field and athletics is building a complex that's going to be broke in 10 years."

Tottenham's plans have dismayed the athletics community, with London 2012 Olympic Committee chairman Sebastian Coe saying last month that Britain's reputation would be "trashed" if that bid were chosen.

World athletics chief Lamine Diack said London's original bid for the Games would have been a "big lie" if the track were removed. Many Tottenham fans are also up in arms about a potential move away from their White Hart Lane home.

West Ham are supported by athletics bodies but also battling against relegation from the Premier League.

Leiweke said AEG, which owns David Beckham's Los Angeles Galaxy Major League Soccer club, would make sure the Olympic Stadium had a successful afterlife without burdening taxpayers.

"We clearly get how to take a project that almost nobody thinks is economically viable and make it viable," he said.

"We will be very aggressive in our commitment and using our relationships and our promoters and, yes, our chequebook to find the right events to bring to the Olympic stadium and we will take the risk on."