Wednesday, 17 November 2010

And on the pedestal these words appear. . .

You worked hard and saved your money. You'd been aware for a little while that you'd outgrown your current home, it didn't have the facilities you need, it was getting a bit creaky and was a little cramped. You'd found out about a new house that had been built on the other side of town. The previous owners had only used it for a couple of weeks before they realised that they didn't really need it anymore and couldn't afford to run it.

Granted the new house was a good distance from your traditional home and wasn't in the best area of town, plus it certainly wasn't cheap, but it fitted the bill. You were just about to finalise the deal when the current owner said 'I know you're paying a lot of money for this place, but even though you're buying it, you're not allowed to change any of the decoration, you can't put up that conservatory you were thinking about and three or four times a year you and your family have to get out of the house for the night so my friends and I can have a dinner party in your dining room.'

As a result, you walk away and the current owner still has this huge house on his hands. He doesn't live there, the lights are turned off most nights and the bill to stop the house falling into disrepair slowly bankrupts him. The house is very high cost and as it isn't being looked after, it becomes a risk to the public who have to pour money in to stop it falling onto neighbouring properties. The current owner is now quite happy, the public pay for the upkeep, don't change the wallpaper and still let him have his dinner parties.

What am I going on about?

The Olympic Stadium, of course.

Tottenham Hotspur have been looking at taking the site over once the games are finished. White Hart Lane just isn't suitable for a Champions League calibre club any more, and the Olympic Stadium was one of the options they were looking at. To be fair to Spurs, they've also got plans for a new ground adjacent to their current site which are quite advanced, but as a sensible business, they've looked around to explore all options.

For what it is worth, I don't think a move to East London is a good idea for Spurs. You can't just uproot a club from one area of town and drop them in another, especially when the area they would be going to has their own very well established club, who are a huge part of the fabric of that area of town and also have designs on the stadium themselves.

This is ridiculous though:

Tottenham's proposal to take over London's Olympic Stadium with AEG after the Games in 2012 is "completely unacceptable" to UK Athletics (UKA).

Along with West Ham, Spurs have been named as a preferred bidder, but their plan to "rip up the athletics track" is anathema to UKA chairman Ed Warner.

"It is [essential] for Tottenham and AEG to go back to the original promise made in 2005," Warner told BBC Sport.

"That was about UK Athletics being at the heart of the Olympic Park." 

Well, if you want to be at the heart of it, then you pay for it chum. Don't be selling it off to the highest bidder and then demanding that they accommodate you. It doesn't work like that.

This is an 80,000 seater stadium, that will make it the third largest stadium in England, not even Manchester United have a stadium that big. Spurs themselves are talking about reducing the capacity by 20,000.

What's the issue here? Why can't they just play behind the athletics track? Because put simply, an athletics track is deadly to the atmosphere in a football stadium. Supporters of both Juventus and Torino hated the lavish Stadio delle Alpi in Turin when they played there as it put the support miles away from the pitch and the atmosphere dissipates into the air. Espanyol, who played at the Olympic Stadium in Barcelona have recently moved into their own gaff and are much much happier to have the running track gone. Bayern and 1860 Munich were also delighted to leave the bizarre Olympiastadion in the city for the purpose built Allianz Arena, although it has worked out less well for 1860 who are still tenants.

Running tracks around football pitches just don't work.

You may hate football, but I would still suggest you'd recognise the ridiculous situation whereby someone buys a property for their own use, only for the previous users to impose conditions of use once the sale has gone through.

Why don't UK Athletics just use the site themselves? Because they just cannot afford it. The current 'home' of athletics in this country, Crystal Palace (National Sports Centre) has a capacity of 15,000 which can be extended to 24,000 with temporary seating. How often is it used? Not very. With the AAA championships, occasional Grand Prixs, the Diamond League meeting and if they are lucky the very occasional European and or World Cup, probably about eight to ten times a year where they have the prospect of having anything approaching a decent crowd. Running a stadium is an expensive business, and with such a paltry selection of events, there's no way they can break even, let alone turn a profit. The Diamond League is the closest thing to the Olympic games, the world's top performers meet up to compete out of their national vests. I can't find the attendance figures for the Crystal Palace meet, but I'd be amazed if it played to a full house of 24,000, athletics just isn't a big draw. Everyone's interest peaks once every four years but after that it slides back into obscurity behind both rugby codes, cricket and the behemoth that is football.

We hear a lot about 'legacy'. Well I'm afraid the legacy will be a parade of barely used sporting facilities which will never again experience the glory of the olympics. Without Spurs, or more likely West Ham, taking over the stadium, the people of Stratford will be left with a huge stadium which sits empty. West Ham seem to be accepting of the idea of a running track, but I'll tell you this, their passionate support will not like it one iota, and they will not be shy in letting Sullivan and Gould (the club's owners) know that the track has to go.

If neither club moves in, who do you think will pick up the tab?

Let's just see what has happened to the stadia for the last few Olympic Games:

2008 - Beijing - Recently used as a snow theme park - plans to turn it into a shopping and entertainment complex. - White elephant.

2004 - Athens - Sometime home to Panathinaikos, AEK Athens and Athens 2004 football clubs. Occasional atheltics use.

2000 - Sydney - Athletics track removed, used for soccer, rugby, Aussie rules and cricket. No call for huge atheltics stadium.

1996 - Atlanta - Atheltics track removed, renamed Turner Field, now baseball specific stadium for the Atlanta Braves. - No call for huge atheltics stadium.

1992 - Barcelona - Now lying empty following the departure of RCD Espanyol, hosted the 2010 European Athletics Championships to very sparse crowds. - White elephant.

In every case they have either been reconfigured, because once the games have gone they just don't need a 60,000 + seater athletics stadium, or it sits as an empty venue which is used occasionally and without  success.

The legacy of the olympic games will be a huge white elephant, soaking up millions of tax payers' money and standing as a monument to the hubris and vanity of the politicians and athletics administrators.

My name is Ozymandias, King of kings: Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!

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