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Tuesday29 July 2014

Olympic stadium deserves better than West Ham

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Populous’s stadium is now a much-loved symbol of sporting success and it deserves to have a genuinely public use

Amanda Baillieu

Amanda Baillieu — Editor in Chief

Whether or not London’s Olympic stadium wins the Stirling Prize next month, it’s become as much a symbol of British sporting success as Beijing’s “Bird’s Nest” stadium was to the Chinese when they staged the Olympics four years ago.

Despite being a global landmark, these days the Bird’s Nest is mainly empty after a number of money-making ventures failed to take off. And this is exactly what the organisers of the London Games wanted to avoid. But they’d not factored in that after such an exhilarating and uplifting summer, people feel that they want a say in the stadium’s future.

As BD has said before, West Ham taking over the stadium was always a basket case of an idea. The club has been evasive about exactly how much it was prepared to pay towards the cost of making it suitable for football. And no wonder. As BD reveals this week, it is offering a measly £3 million towards a bill of £160 million, relying on the taxpayer to fund the rest.

Olympic Stadium

Source: PA

The Olympic Stadium: a symbol of sporting success

Leaving aside that most of us would recoil at the idea of visiting a public park with 60,000 football supporters milling around it every other Saturday, public subsidy for West Ham is morally wrong. The stadium has already cost us £540 million — the Olympics a whopping £9.3 billion — and yet the fact that West Ham’s bid is the only serious one on the table suggests that those in charge of legacy want to get the venue off their hands, and off their books, as quickly as possible. The spectre of the Dome lives on, it seems.

West Ham is a middle-ranking club with strong local support, but that’s all. It’s doubtful that, once the novelty factor has worn off, it could ever fill the stadium.

There may need to be an element of public subsidy as the stadium was clearly not designed to be multi-purpose — as few decent stadiums ever are. At the same time, there should be plenty of operators with ideas that would not simply make more financial sense but would be welcomed as a genuinely public use for a building that we have grown, rather unexpectedly, to love.

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Readers' comments (9)

  • Argh, please spell 'Populous' correctly, it's not that difficult

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  • Like others have suggested before why not keep it for it intended purpose...athletics? If the summer proved anything it proves there are other sports than football.

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  • The Dome 'reinvented' itself in the end, and so should the Olympic Stadium - A football club in residence will alter the feeling of the entire surrounding park area, and other people's enjoyment of it - many people will just want to keep away from throngs of foot ball fans. You are right about this Amanda.

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  • Thanks Amanda for putting this so succinctly, great stuff.

    I think if West Ham are already being defiant at this stage, you'll be getting much more the same attitude for the next 30 years on all sorts of other issues that arise around their site in future.

    I personally would be put off going to the Olympic Park on a Saturday knowing that thousands of 'up for it' football fans were booring around the place all day long, many hours before and after the game, 'owning' the place with chants and the type of 'maurading' you find on the tube on a Saturday afternoon.

    I also think many thousands of Londoners and families looking for a pleasant day out wandering around a tranquil park on a weekend Saturday would feel the exactly same way.

    The Premiership culture is loud and in your face, and the fans are what drives that. They really shouldnt have a place in the olympic park if it is going to be a world class, peaceful space for families to escape to from the hubbub of the city. The park should have a Southbank vibe, relaxed and cultural, somewhere traffic free. Premiership motor-mouths stay clear.

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  • kamiichi

    once the olympics are over and the all the new buy to let flats are built, is ther any park to visit?

    it's a crap stadium, no facilities, too far from the action, seats too small and no roof. half the stadium isn't even near the track.

    It was built to be torn down after the games and reconfigured at the tax payers expense. Spurs were right it needs to be rebuilt. West Ham need to come up with at least £50-60 million.

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  • zecks_marquise

    was my comment taken down or did i just forget to troll this one?

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  • What a great stadium - I would hope they put it to good use now that the Olympics are over. What's wrong with using it as a multi-purpose stadium (ie. football, concerts, other sporting events, etc)?

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  • It is pointless saying this should not be given over to football without coming up with a better more viable solution. Time and again it is so easy to be critical and point out a fault but this is totally obsolete as an article if you cannot come up with a solution. Careful because people will start throwing those two awful words we hate to hear, white and elephant. Secondly how many Olympic games have we witnessed where the stadium is a magnificent center piece that lights up our tv's and the hearts of the host nation yet afterwards they cannot fill it for athletics, or it becomes some part-time relic part-time concert venue? The stadium needs a full time function otherwise it will become a WE.

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  • So if West Ham were to say they will stay at their own stadium, what then? The stadium will then become a true white elephant. West Ham not good enough to fill it? They have a massive fanbase in the East end and Essex. They will fill or nearly fill it most weeks. When they have this fanbase they will attract more investment. Remember Manchester City became one of the world's richest clubs from the same sort of standing as West ham are now, once they moved into a top stadium.

    Remember too that West Ham are only renting so why should they pay for the cost of conversion? There is far to much anti West Ham in the media, probably fueled by supporters of that odious club in Tottenham and their weasel of a chairman. but West Ham really are the only option. So there is the stark choice West Ham or white elephant.

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