Bids invited to lease 2012 stadium

LONDON - Organisations who want to lease the main 2012 Olympic stadium after the Games are over have until the end of September to submit their bids, the company responsible for the process said on Wednesday.

The future of the 516 million pound venue is a concern for lawmakers, who fear it could turn into a white elephant unless a tenant is found quickly.

Organisers deliberately designed the arena to provide flexibility, but initial interest by football, rugby and cricket clubs foundered because of a commitment to retain an athletics track around the pitch.

More than 100 organisations took part in an initial expression of interest process earlier this year, from which a group has emerged backing the existance of a multi-use stadium for athletics and possible commercial, health or educational uses, the Olympic Park Legacy Company (OPLC) said.

The interested parties also favoured a long lease, and reducing the capacity from 80,000 to between 25,000 and 60,000 seats, depending on their plans.

The OPLC, responsible for planning and developing the Olympic Park's post-games use, said last November that it was keen to review all possible legacy options.

The new owners of Premier League football club West Ham are among those interested, saying in March that they could co-exist with athletics, as is U.S. sports and leisure giant AEG.

The OPLC said bidding is not exclusive to those who took part in the interest process.

"The stadium is at the heart of the Olympic Park and securing the most appropriate solution is crucial to our long-term aspirations for the area," OPLC Chairman Margaret Ford said in a statement.

"I am delighted that organisations with a serious interest all want a mixed usage - this is in-line with our promise to meet the bid commitments, and our vision for the stadium to be a focal point for sport and community use."

The OPLC aims to have a lease agreement signed by the end of March next year.

The cost of the stadium has doubled from its initial estimate, but it is potentially one of the most important venues for attracting longer-term jobs and investment to the Olympic Park in a previously run-down part of east London.

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