Premier League - Spurs, Coe row over Olympic stadium

Sun, 23 Jan 19:44:00 2011

London 2012 chief Sebastian Coe and Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy have entered a war of words over plans to move into the Olympic stadium after the Games.

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Coe, chairman of the London 2012 Olympic Committee said Britain's reputation would be "trashed" if Tottenham's plan to rip down the stadium were given the nod next week.

Spurs are in competition with fellow Premier League club West Ham United to take over the 500 million stadium after the Games but whereas West Ham's plan will maintain an athletics legacy, Tottenham's does not include a track.

The Olympic Park Legacy Company is evaluating both bids and is expected to make its recommendation on Friday, after which the government and mayor of London will have the final say on the future of the site.

"It's serious we deliver what we said we were going to unless we're prepared to trash our reputation," Coe, who has so far been guarded in his comments on the process despite his athletics background, told BBC Radio Five.

"It'd be very difficult for us to be taken seriously in the corridors of world sport and arguably beyond."

Much of London's winning bid in 2005 was based on a sporting legacy in the East End and central to that was an athletics stadium capable of hosting world class events.

Tottenham, who argue that tracks do not work in football stadiums, have offered to revamp the out-dated Crystal Palace National Sports Centre in south London as part of its legacy commitment to athletics.

"I remember delivering a vision about a generation of young people being inspired to take up Olympic sports, I remember talking about young people in a poor community in East London fashioning their future through sport," Coe said.

"I'm prepared to revisit my words but I don't recall a whole heap about bulldozing down a publicly-funded community facility, replacing it with a football club and inspiring a generation of Tottenham season ticket holders, however many there may be on a waiting list."

Speaking on the same show, Levy criticised Coe's use of emotional rhetoric in his evaluation of the situation, saying: "Strip out the emotion, take a step back and ask what's best for athletics - it's surely to have a dedicated facility that's available all year round rather than 20 days a year."

Levy believes what his club proposes would "over-deliver" on Coe's 2005 pledge to IOC delegates, but the double Olympic champion vehemently disagrees.

He continued: "There are all these emotive words being used. Let's deal with fact rather than emotion. This word 'promise' that has been used is such an emotive word."

"Surely it's a far better legacy for London as a whole if you have a world-class stadium for multi-use within the Olympic Park that is full throughout the year and a dedicated athletics venue in south London.

"I'd don't buy the argument of having somewhere to take your grandchild to reminisce on London 2012, what I buy is a dedicated facility which will always be the home of athletics.

"The OPLC and the Government are looking for something that is sustainable and viable over the long term. As a long-term viable solution, football and athletics just don't work together.

"What we're offering is a dedicated 25,000-seater facility for athletics at its original home, with a roof and the ability to be expanded up to 40,000 to hold a World Championships. In terms of assets, we are absolutely over-delivering on the original proposal."

Levy also appeared to cast doubt on the club's existing plans to build a new stadium adjacent to its White Hart Lane home in north London - a plan that is popular with the fans.

"It's very simple - we have a 36,000-strong waiting list for season tickets and we sell out every game, we need a bigger stadium," he said.

"It's exceedingly difficult to find a site to build a new stadium, and the North London Development project (redeveloping White Hart Lane) is not financially viable at the moment.

"We're committed to financing whatever it takes to redevelop Crystal Palace into a 25,000 stadium which would be expandable up to 40,000 for a world championship."

West Ham, whose current ground is just two miles from the Olympic Park, would retain the athletics track in their bid which is supported by the London borough of Newham.

Tottenham are in partnership with American entertainment giant AEG which owns the nearby O2 Arena.

PA Sport / Reuters

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