Pledge to retain Olympic stadium track remains

LONDON, Oct 7 (Reuters) - Premier League rivals Tottenham Hotspur and West Ham United must make provision for an athletics track if either is to succeed in their bid to take over the main stadium after the 2012 London Olympics, organisers said.

A softening in that stance was suggested when Tottenham announced last week that they had teamed up with AEG, the U.S. operator of London's O2 Arena, to mount a joint bid to lease the stadium after the Games.

Tottenham said they would not keep a track, with AEG saying it would not make any economic sense.

But when Margaret Ford, chairwoman of the Olympic Park Legacy Company (OPLC), was asked at a news briefing in London on Thursday whether a track was non-negotiable in any deal with a football club, she said:

"One of our criteria was they had to tell how us how they would meet the Olympic promise for athletics in legacy. That has not changed."

Olympics minister Hugh Robertson added: "It (athletics) was an absolutely core part of our bid... and that commitment will be honoured."

The venue's future is proving a headache for the OPLC which is under pressure to fulfil a pledge made to the International Olympic Committee during the bid process to keep the track while finding a credible tenant.


In an attempt to avoid the 516 million pounds stadium becoming a white elephant, the public sector not-for-profit company responsible for the park in legacy, opened a bidding process to see who might be best suited to utilise the venue.

Tottenham will face strong competition from West Ham, who have formally submitted a bid with Newham Council.

"It would be no problem for us to have temporary facilities on the track during the football season, which could then be removed for the athletics season," West Ham co-owner David Gold was quoted as saying in Thursday's Evening Standard.

"So we would be honouring our commitment to the 2012 legacy by keeping the athletics facilities. It will be the most stunning stadium in the country." The east London club plan to reduce the capacity of the stadium, capable of hosting football and athletics as well as concerts, from a capacity of 80,000 to 60,000 seats.

Tottenham have also secured permission to redevelop their current stadium at White Hart Lane in north London.

The main Olympic stadium, built with flexibility in mind, was originally planned to be reduced in size to 25,000 seats.

Ford said the OPLC would not comment on any individual bid during the bidding process.

It hopes to have a lease agreement signed by the end of March next year.