London 2012: Olympic Stadium not reliant on football club to survive

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New bidding process launched for 2012 stadium

West Ham have been warned that the Olympic Stadium is not relying on a football club to guarantee a successful legacy after next year's Games.

A new bidding process to find a tenant for the venue begins on Tuesday.

Andrew Altman, chief executive of the Olympic Park Legacy Company (OPLC), says his organisation is still keen to do a deal with the Championship side.

But he believes the stadium can cover its running costs even if the Hammers do not secure a new rental deal.

"We welcome football but it's not solely dependent on football," he said.

"There are other combinations of other sports, concerts and activities that can also provide revenue.

"What we are going out for provides maximum flexibility for the public sector to make sure we return value for money. We are just looking to see how we can populate the calendar with as many things as we can that can be compatible and work together."

The OPLC pulled the plug on the deal with West Ham and Newham Council in October after running into a series of legal challenges from Tottenham, whose own bid for the stadium was rejected in February.

Under the terms of the new arrangement, the stadium will be retained in public ownership with the OPLC seeking a number of possible tenants.

The running track will be retained after the Olympics and the venue will be showcased again in 2017 when London hosts the World Athletics Championships.

In addition it will set aside 21 days a year for athletics events, making good on London's promise to keep athletics at its core following the Games.

Altman says there has been sporting interest from two Premiership rugby clubs, an American football team and cricket. He adds that concerts and other events will also help bring in revenue.

But it is difficult to see how the OPLC can ensure the stadium does not become a major drain on the public purse without the regular use by a Championship or Premier League football club.

With Tottenham no longer interested and now looking to redevelop White Hart Lane, the only other club to express an interest in the past was League One side Leyton Orient.

However, Orient chairman Barry Hearn has said he no longer has any intention of bidding and Altman's comments must be seen as an attempt to increase competition in the new tender process and avoid West Ham making a derisory bid, which would allow them to effectively secure a 99-year lease of the stadium on the cheap.

The deadline for bids is 23 March with a decision due to be made next May. Despite the collapse of the previous deal and the long wait to finally secure a long-term legacy plan for the £500m stadium, Altman says the OPLC remains confident it will be able to conclude the deal in time to re-open in the summer of 2014.

Under the previous deal with West Ham, Newham Council were to borrow £40m to pay towards the £95m cost of converting the stadium, reducing the capacity from 80,000 to 60,000 and adding a full roof after the Games.

The rest of the money was to come from £36m of the OPLC's £300m budget for converting venues with the remainder coming from the sale of West Ham's Upton Park ground.

Altman says the costs will now be split between Newham and the OPLC, who will pump extra money into the project to replace the money from West Ham.

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