Legacy boss: ‘Noise’ won’t influence us

LEGACY chiefs insist they will not be pressured into any decisions over who takes over the numerous Olympic venues after the London 2012 Games.

Debate has raged over whether West Ham or Tottenham should move into the stadium, with some of the most powerful men in the sports world fanning the flames.

Today bidders are invited for the first time to lodge interest in two more of the Olympic venues: the aquatics centre and the multi-use arena.

And Malcom Ross, executive director of operations and venues for the Olympic Park Legacy Company, is adamant they will not be bullied into picking one bidder or another – no matter how intense the media speculation.

“Sometimes there is a lot of noise in the Press about other issues and it may be interesting, but we are very focused on what our objectives are when we evaluate and select the operator,” he told City A.M.

Interested parties have eight weeks to tender offers for the 2,500-seater, Zaha Hadid-designed aquatics centre, which features two 50m pools and a diving pool, and the multi-use venue, which is set to stage handball at next year’s Games and contains 7,500 seats.

Legacy promises and viability have been the buzz-words in the debate over who takes over the Olympic venues after the Games, but Ross says there is no single overriding criterion.

“It’s not one, it’s a number, they’re balanced and they play a very important part in the overall process. So it’s pretty clean and clinical, very fair, objective and transparent,” he added.

Lord Coe, the chairman of the organising committee for the Games and a key figure in winning the right to host the event, and world athletics chief Lamine Diack are among the high-profile names to voice strong opinions on who should run the venues post-2012.

Ross said: “There is a lot of comment around but we don’t get distracted or deflected by those. We stay very clearly focused on the mission, which is to set ourselves up for success by selecting the most relevant and successful, sustainable solution for each of our venues – and we’ll continue to do that.

“Everybody has the right to their opinions and they’ll be printed. But do those distract or influence us? No.”

Ross confirmed that operators of any of the Olympic venues would be allowed to sell lucrative naming rights, as Arsenal have for their Emirates Stadium and both West Ham and Tottenham would look to do if they moved into the Olympic Stadium.

However, he warned that major modifications to either the aquatics centre or the multi-use arena would not be permitted, ruling out the possibility they could be bulldozed and rebuilt to a bidder’s requirements, as Spurs have proposed to do to the £537m stadium.

Spurs may leave N17 even if they lose bid
TOTTENHAM chairman Daniel Levy insists the club may leave White Hart Lane even if they fail to win the bid to move into the Olympic Stadium. Spurs are vying for the occupancy of the Newham site with West Ham. Levy said: “The situation we are in at White Hart Lane is that the project is not viable so we would have look at other locations again.”

Hammers boosted by O’Neil signing
WEST HAM have bolstered their squad with the addition of Middlesbrough midfielder Gary O’Neil. The 27-year-old could go straight into the squad for tonight’s Carling Cup trip to Birmingham and looks set to be joined by Hoffenheim striker Demba Ba, who said last night he had agreed terms for a loan until the end of the season.