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Questions, questions, questions

Filed: Friday, 17th February 2012
By: Paul Walker

The more this protracted, tiresome Olympic stadium debate continues, the more worrying questions it throws up.

Now we discover that Steve Lawrence, the architect initially responsible for the Olympic Park is revealed as the 'anonymous objector' to the EU that brought about the collapse of West Hamís plans to take over the Stratford stadium after this summerís games.

Mind you, the first question is, who really knew that Lawrence was the man behind the complaint?

He insists it was not an anonymous complaint. So did the Government know, did Boris know, did the OPLC know and more to the point, did West Ham or Newham Council know?

Lawrence maintains that the stadium is not right for football, and was never designed for such an outcome.

He also maintains that football is the only financially viable professional sport that can make a success of the stadium in the future. Yes, you have guessed itÖ.why was the stadium therefore not designed with a football heritage in mind Mr. Lawrence? You must have had some part of that decision making. Good grief, sometimes you just couldnít make it up!

Simple, this. The stadium is a circle. Football is played in rectangular stadiums. As is rugby, and actually athletics. The only sports that seem to survive in circles is cricket and the various mad forms of Aussie sport.

And although I have been generally browned off with Orient owner Barry Hearnís involvement in all the legal stuff, he is actually being shown to be right on this point. The stadium was a cock-up right from the start.

Now Lawrence is suggesting that the warm-up track can be converted for the athletics legacy, and the stadium should be converted for West Ham and Orient to share as a football ground without a track.

Much the same as the Manchester City model following the Commonwealth Games. Manchester Council had Cityís involvement from the start, before a spade ever entered the ground because they knew it would be a white elephant otherwise. It is only the smug athletics world (yes, you, Seb Coe) who insists that athletics can survive financially in such a giant stadium.

City agreed to give Manchester Council their former home at Maine Road, in exchange for a long-term lease at Eastlands because the authorities could never have afforded to maintain the ground otherwise.

So the stadium was built with a submerged lower tier of seating that was dug out after the Commonwealth Games, with the track being removed, and now City have a perfect stadium for their future use. They were not given it as a gift, they actually made the Commonwealth Games possible in Manchester.

And athletics have a smaller, viable converted warm-up track for their use.

It has been asked before, but here goes again. Why on earth was the Olympic stadium not planned along such lines of co-operation? The warm-up track in Stratford would be more than adequate for athleticsí needs. But then the Olympic athletics organisers were too pig-headed to admit to such a position.

Lawrence is now saying that he complained to the EU in October because he feared that the £40million loan from Newham Council could be considered illegal state aid. Why did he take so long?

He fears that if West Ham sell off the Boleyn and move to Stratford, any football club at a later date (Spurs or Orient, we must assume) could complain to the EU, and if they won their case then West Ham would have to pay back the loan or even pay for the stadium. That clearly could not afford and we would have been homeless, because the stadium would have to be handed back to the authorities.

Lawrence even suggests that West Ham would die. Now the real question. Just how much of this possibility did West Hamís board know? How long ago was it suggested to them that they were playing with fire and could in effect, put our whole existence in danger?

If they didnít know, did the Government or Borisí lot? Or even the OPLC? It worries me that such a fundamental part of the pre-planning did not throw up this possible outcome. Lawrence seems to have known, why was it not considered fully much earlier?

Or was the political authorities, and West Ham, so desperate to get a future legacy in place before the Games took place, that such little problems were ignored or swept aside in the head long desire to make the Olympics a success?.

Yes, the same Olympics that has produced a ticket buying fiasco (now isnít that a surprise) and a furious attempt to make the rest of the UK believe these games are for them, all-inclusive.

Now these days I do not live in London, and have not been swept up in Olympic fever. I do not hear the Olympics being discussed much in my local pub (Man City and Man United hold sway there, and West Ham when I can get a word in edgeways).

I donít know anyone who has got tickets or even applied for them. But I hear plenty of complaints that taxes and lottery money from outside the south is paying for it all rather than schools and the NHS, and we should be grateful for a few football matches in Cardiff, Coventry, Manchester, Newcastle and Glasgow. Plus a fleeting sight of the flame when it goes off around the UK. Ok, I digress, rant over.

Back to the Olympic stadium future. I sense that too much energy was thrown at making the whole thing work and for a Government not to be saddled with a white elephant stadium, than to consider properly West Ham Unitedís future. Our club. Our heritage.

It looked a good business plan. Our board sold the Boleyn, paid off the debts and moved to a stadium with the potential of vast wealth from naming rights. But that is now not the case.

We are told we are still interested in just renting the stadium, but not having any revenue from naming rights. And with the track staying.

Please remind me: Just why do we want to go there? Heard reckons that even the seats are not at the right angle, to make watching from the lower tier very difficult.

Answers please from everyone. The Government, Boris, the OPLC, and of course our own beloved board and Ms. Brady, who says she has devoted two years of her life to all this. And this is the mess we are left with!

Incidentally, the best match I have seen this week was on West Ham TV who showed our outstanding youth team in their very unlucky FA Youth Cup defeat at Chelsea.

I had not really seen much of the likes of Elliott Lee, Blair Turgott, Dominic Vose, Leon Chambers or Matthias Fanimo before from my vantage point in Cheshire. But there are some genuine stars for the future here - and what a cracking game.

Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, nor should be attributed to, KUMB.com.

Your Comments

by Kevin Taylor
12:37PM 22nd Feb 2012
''If the only thing the OS has going for it is that fans can be tucked up in bed with their hot chocolate an hour or so earlier after the game then I'm sorry, that is just not a good enough excuse to move. Redevelop the East Stand and before you say 'the police won't allow it' then lets use our time, money and resource changing their mind rather than flogging this idiotic idea to death.''

by Al
12:56PM 20th Feb 2012
''I agree with most other people's sentiments on here.

We already have a stadium with atmosphere. If we want to increase capacity why don't we just build a new East Stand as was originally intended?

If we really want to move into the Olympic Stadium we have to be given permission to dig out the athletics track and build seating to get fans closer to the pitch. If we're not given that permission then we should just let the Olympics Committee fester in their self-made mess.

Of course we could keep up the pretence of wanting to move into the stadium, only to decline further down the road, to keep Spurs out.''

by Tell how it is Charlie!
09:07PM 17th Feb 2012
''It sounds as though Lawrence has acted in the general interests of West Ham Utd FC and Newham council tax payers. Was Gold & Sullivan's aim to get the club up, get into the new stadium and sell the club as quick as possible?

The more you hear about this stadium the more farce comes into it. It was getting a new stadium on the cheap. Where were the West Ham/Newham council, legal advisers in all of this? Were they going against their own legal teams advice? Or were their legal teams telling them what they wanted to hear?''

by J-Mo
06:25PM 17th Feb 2012
''WHU should pull the plug on the OS bid immediately and save wasting any more of the club's time. Spurs aren't serious about taking on the tenancy, they're just using it as leverage to get their own new stadium plans sorted, while Orient moving in wouldn't be a viable option unless they could fill the place every week.

This thing has been a white elephant from the beginning and will remain so as a toxic legacy of these games.''

by spyinthesky
05:16PM 17th Feb 2012
''Well one judge thought Spurs' objections were laughable then another felt differently, it seems. This shows the law is an ass and can be interpreted totally differently (Tevez anyone) until various precedents set the standards.

Almost any large-scale development can/will be challenged and usually power and money will dictate the success or otherwise of that, everything is challengable like it or not.

You have said what I have previously argued. Where was Lawrence when on two, perhaps three occasions, West Ham proposed contributing to a stadium fit for football? I can only assume he was to keen to keep his income ticking over nicely to object back then publicly.

What does that say about him? I do wonder why architects who, after all, design buildings, think their opinions are superior to anyone else as he clearly does by suggesting that Rodgers should now lead an inquiry which would cost in the long run much of what he complains about losing now.

By the way - Livingstone was as much to blame as anyone for the refusal to consider football as the primary legacy and oh here he is again on the edge of being mayor again.

The angle of the seats? We dont know the final format yet do we, but I will guarantee the angle of the view will be far better than the appalling flat on Upton Park; distance is the problem and that must be solved.

As for the youngsters I hope you are right though I heard from another person who watched them twice that there was little clearly outstanding on view though depth is clearly impressive.''

by John Storey
03:05PM 17th Feb 2012
''I'm sick to the back teeth of 'The Olympic Stadium' bid, bids and further bids. As it stands at the moment, what's the rush, until we gain promotion back to the Premier League (please God it's this season) it doesn't matter if we remain in Upton Park for the next 10 years or longer.

Apart from the 'top six' the remainder of the opposition is no different than who we are playing in the Championship. Withdraw all our bids completely, let them get on with it they seem to think they can fill it up with 'What' (suggestions on a postcard please). When reality dawns and the site is almost derelict then go in with a 'we'll take it off your hands' bid. Public opinion will be glad to see something moving instead of the phantom plans from all and sundry, it will be just like the Battersea Power Station situation, how many times have we heard that is going to be 'redeveloped'?

Don't bother, tell 'em to go forth and multiply and wait and wait and wait. Then make a move, what have we lost? NOTHING.''

by Chris Wheeler
02:23PM 17th Feb 2012
''Very good article mate, lots of questions that need to be answered. ''

by cb
02:01PM 17th Feb 2012
''Anyone want to place a bet that Mr Lawrence may just be the guy who gets the contract designing Spurs new stadium?''

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