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2012 bosses deny demolition plan

07.09.2008

By Matt Slater

London 2012 bosses have denied they are seriously considering a plan to flatten the Olympic Stadium after the Games.

Reports have suggested the 525m venue could be demolished and replaced by a Premier League football ground.

But the London Development Agency (LDA), the body responsible for the post-2012 use of the site, has moved quickly to play down these claims.

And a spokesman for London Mayor Boris Johnson said Johnson was "not aware of any plans to demolish the stadium".

He added that the mayor remained committed to finding a viable, long-term use for all the permanent Olympic venues and wanted "athletics to be part of that legacy".

A spokesman for the LDA said "no stone had been left unturned" in exploring all the options for the Olympic venues and the drawing up of a range of possible scenarios was part and parcel of the legacy planning process.

A source close to the process told BBC Sport the leaked demolition plan was simply one of "more than 10" options currently on the table. He also strongly hinted it was the most radical - and least likely - of those choices.

The favourite option remains converting the 80,000-capacity venue into a 25,000-seat stadium with an athletics track and at least one "anchor tenant", a football or rugby team capable of filling the venue on a regular basis.

A guaranteed revenue stream is crucial to the venue's future as no local or national authority wants to be responsible for the upkeep of a rarely used athletics centre - all interested parties are desperate to avoid the mistakes of previous Olympic hosts and their expensive "white elephants".

The LDA has been actively looking for an anchor tenant for over two years and is currently talking to League One club Leyton Orient, the Rugby Football League and UK Athletics, and is widely believed to have also put out feelers to rugby union sides Saracens and Wasps.

Initial talks with West Ham United about a move to Stratford collapsed early on over the issue of the athletics track and its use for international events, and Tottenham Hotspur, the other Premier League side close enough to be a realistic candidate, appear to favour redeveloping their current home.

Chelsea have also been touted as possible future tenants although there seems to be little substance to those claims as they want to stay in west London.

A spokesman for West Ham told BBC Sport the situation had not changed in regard to any possible move to the Olympic site and the club's preferred options were building a new ground at a former Parcelforce depot next to West Ham tube station or upgrading Upton Park.

That said, both West Ham and Spurs have not ruled out the Olympic option, providing a workable solution can be found to the athletics issue and, most importantly, the numbers make sense. Both are mindful of the fantastic deal Manchester City's owners were given when they were handed Eastlands after the 2002 Commonwealth Games.

But what makes a similar transition from multi-sport event centrepiece to gleaming Premier League palace far less likely in London is the unlikelihood of any government agreeing to the demolition of such an expensive and high-profile venue after just a few weeks' use.

London 2012's organisers would also be vehemently opposed to any dilution of the athletics legacy in Stratford as that was promised to the International Olympic Committee in the bid for the Games.

newsvote.bbc.co.uk

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