Should we care who gets the Olympic Stadium after London 2012?
From the moment London won the right to stage the Olympic Games in 2012, the future of the Olympic Stadium has been in question.
The London Bid Committee gave a compelling argument during its presentation in Singapore to the IOC about the importance of young people in sport and the legacy that a London Games would seek to create.
After the debacle surrounding the World Athletics Championships of 2005, which were supposed to be held near the current Olympic Park at Pickett’s Lock, creating a venue which would inspire potential young athletes for decades to come has become vital to the long term impact of the London Olympic Games.
The difference between successful Olympic Games and unsuccessful competitions has always been the legacy of the venues and the continuing impact on society.
Athletics, which Great Britain has done well in at an international level in the past, no longer captures the public’s imagination in the way that it should and by staging the Games for the third time, that enthusiasm and popularity could be reignited.
I spoke to someone the other day who suggested that athletics is a dying sport and not sustainable in the long term. My reply was that the presence of a stadium where history will be made next year is just sort of venue that will inspire new generations to rekindle the passion that athletics needs.
So when the Olympic Park Legacy Company makes its decision in a few days, it must go with West Ham FC’s bid to take control of the stadium, retaining the athletics track that will fuel the hopes and dreams of future generations .
The rival bid, from Tottenham Hotspur, who are not even based in East London, will see the original stadium ripped down and replaced with a football stadium that will do nothing to extend the athletics legacy which is at the heart of the Olympic Games.
Tottenham have proposed to upgrade the existing facilities at Crystal Palace, which was not chosen as the site for the London 2012 bid for reasons including its lack of transport links and location.
Interestingly, Tottenham, who have met with opposition not only from athletics fans but from their own fans, have sent out a survey this week asking fans for their thoughts about season tickets, but have chosen not to ask their opinions on moving to a new London location. And yet they claim to have had very little opposition to their plans.
And their campaigning head of communications is Mike Lee, the very man whose job it was to provide the emotional story of London’s legacy to the international media during the London Olympic bid.
Even Simon Clegg, formerly of the British Olympic Association, has come out against West Ham’s plans on the basis that football and athletics don’t mix. Certainly it will take some getting used to for fans in this country, but it has worked at stadia in Germany and Italy and can work in east London as well.
It's interesting to note that many seats at Wembley stadium are further away from the action than football fans separated by an athletics stadium will be at the Olympic Stadium.
Ensuring that Great Britain has an athletics stadium capable of holding world class events for years to come is vital to the prosperity of the sport in this country.
Given the commitments made in Singapore in 2005, London must also ensure that it keeps its promises, especially after the disappointment of England’s 2018 World Cup bid.
IAAF President Lamine Diack’s comments that Britain’s reputation will be ‘dead’ after the commitment they made to the IOC in Singapore, may not be such a huge exaggeration.
Lord Coe referred to it yesterday as our 'moral obligation' and he's not wrong. Backtracking on our commitment to the IOC would have ramifications that go way beyond the sporting world.
The future of athletics, the reputation of Britain as an honourable nation and the legacy London sought to create from next year’s Olympic Games are all at stake. There is only one choice and that has to be West Ham.