Olympic Stadium deal axed but West Ham still on pole

MAYOR of London Boris Johnson has assured West Ham the club will “almost certainly” win the race to move into the Olympic Stadium when a second tendering process begins in the next few weeks.

The Olympic Park Legacy Company (OPLC) will lay out its criteria and invite interest later this month or in early November after deciding to scrap the controversy-mired initial process more than a year after bidding first began.

West Ham were on the brink of signing a 125-year lease to move into the £486m stadium after London 2012 but the OPLC called off talks amid fears the process could be delayed for years by ongoing legal wrangling.

Tottenham and Leyton Orient, whose interest in the arena was rejected, were due in the High Court next week after being granted a judicial review of the OPLC’s original decision to select the Hammers as tenants.

Johnson said: “We will keep it in public hands but we will effectively rent it to a football club, almost certainly West Ham, and that will cover the costs.”

West Ham and bid partners Newham council said they would bid again for the stadium, which is instead now likely to be leased on a season-by-season basis, while Leyton Orient have resolved to enter the race again.

Tottenham are understood to be waiting for the bid criteria to be finalised before deciding whether to submit another bid.

However they are certain to opt out if, as expected, pledging to retain the running track is explicitly named as a pre-requisite to bidding.

A major obstacle to concluding a deal proved to be an anonymous complaint to the European Commission that a £40m loan from Newham to West Ham towards converting the stadium might constitute state aid and therefore may be illegal. Instead a more modest conversion will be funded largely by public money.

TIMESCALE | WHAT HAPPENS NOW

Oct-Nov OPLC will set out new bidding criteria for stadium and go to market
Jan 2012 Deadline for bidders to submit final proposals
Mar 2012 Planning permission to be submitted for conversion of the stadium after the Olympic Games
2014 Winning tenant expected to move into renovated stadium