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Will Tidey - There are no real winners in the Olympic Stadium debate

Published: 10 Feb 2011 - 07:51:06

It's been five and a half years since London won the 2012 Olympic bid, and from tomorrow we may finally be able to concentrate on the Games themselves - not the tiresome business of what will happen to the Olympic stadium when they're over.

From the moment IOC president Jacques Rogges made the announcement in Paris it's been an irritating distraction. West Ham or Tottenham? Running track or no running track? Keep it or knock it down?

Quite how the story been allowed to get in the way of the most high-profile sporting event to grace this country in 46 years is beyond me. The decision should have been made a long time ago, and the speculation put to bed with it.

But the English media aren't complaining. Newspapers and websites (like this one) have surrounded the debate like a running track in an Olympic stadium, and made it the biggest story of the 2012 Games. Surely we should be writing about Usain Bolt and Jessica Ennis, not Daniel Levy and Karren Brady.

Thankfully the most tedious race in Olympic history is about to come to end. On Friday the Olympic Park Legacy Group (I'm imaging 14 men dressed like crusaders) will come together and give West Ham's plan their backing, paving the way for a 60,000-seater stadium that will host everything from football and athletics to Lady GaGa concerts.

For the London Olympics it's unquestionably the right decision. The stadium will be modified from its 80,000 capacity, but in essence will live on largely untouched. The running track on which history will be made will remain available to the sport that made it possible, and the local community will benefit from an array of community projects and a rich variety of entertainment on their doorstep.

It's all about legacy you see. But will anybody really get want they want?

West Ham will get a shiny new stadium, but they'll rarely fill it - especially if they're in the Championship by the time they grace it. And their fans will have to adjust from the intensity of Upton Park to a stadium that will see them a running track away from the action. Getting beaten is bad enough in a cauldron, let alone a soulless, half-empty legacy building.

As for athletics, nobody believes for a second the 60,000 seats will ever be filled again for its purpose in this country. Do international athletes really want to compete in front of half-full stadiums? Or third-full stadiums?

At least the likes of GaGa, U2 and the Rolling Stones will fill it. And it would be perfect for FA Cup semi-finals.

Meanwhile, Tottenham's proposal to knock down the original site and build themselves a new football ground and a 25,000-capacity stadium for athletics somewhere else was about as 'anti-legacy' as you can get. From an outsider perspective it was courting with arrogance. And for that reason they never really stood a chance.

So Spurs fans lose out altogether, West Ham fans face an uncertain future in a stadium that's too big for them, and visiting athletes are met by tumble weed.

But at least it's over. All we can hope is that Levy doesn't appeal and drag the story all the way to the opening ceremony.

DSG


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FOOTBALL.CO.UK BLOGGER:Will Tidey
Will Tidey writes on sport for CNN, Eurosport-Yahoo! and Bleacher Report, amongst others. His first book, 'Life with Sir Alex', an account of Sir Alex Ferguson's 25-year reign at Manchester United, is set for release in October this year. Pre-order it now at http://tinyurl.com/6xzl62b. And follow Will on Twitter here - www.twitter.com/willtidey

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