TOTTENHAM have been handed a boost in their bid to move into the Olympic Stadium after Jacques Rogge, the president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), ruled out intervening in the escalating row.
Rogge, one of the most powerful men in world sport, had hinted he would actively oppose Tottenham’s plans to tear down the £500m venue and scrap the athletics track if they are preferred to rival bidders West Ham.
But last night he clarified the IOC’s position, admitting that he would prefer to see the track retained at the Stratford venue, he had no jurisdiction and would not seek to exercise any influence.
Rogge (inset) said: “We would favour a solution with a track legacy. But the decision is in the hands of the OPLC [Olympic Park Legacy Company] along with UK Athletics and Locog [the London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games].
“If a solution could be found for the track we would be happy, but don’t expect the IOC to intervene in an issue where we are not responsible.”
OPLC chiefs are due to announce the winning bid on 28 January, bringing to an end a controversial process. They have talked up their preference to keep the track but have repeatedly refused to rule out bids that won’t.
Spurs have raised eyebrows by revealing they intend to bulldoze the £500m stadium constructed for the London 2012 Games in order to build a new arena on the site to their specifications.
They want to scrap the running track, which they feel would hinder the spectator experience, and have instead promised to deliver an athletics legacy by pumping money into a redevelopment and expansion of Crystal Palace.
Tottenham’s £250m plans have upset fans who do not want them to leave their traditional home in N17, while local MP David Lammy has vociferously spoken out against their proposed switch.
“This is no different to the situation that emerged with MK Dons and AFC Wimbledon,” he said yesterday.
West Ham have the backing of UK Athletics due to their commitment to retain the running track. A key promise made by London when bidding for the Games was that the event would create an athletics legacy.
Q+A | OLYMPIC STADIUM ROW
WHY DO SPURS WANT TO MOVE IN? White Hart Lane is not big enough, while building a new ground in north London would cost an extra £200m.
AND WEST HAM? The East End’s biggest team are keen on an upgrade from dated Upton Park, and see the one being built down the road as ideal.
WHAT ARE THEIR ARGUMENTS? Spurs say their stronger finances and greater ticket demand, plus the backing of O2 chiefs AEG, make them a safer bet. West Ham say they will keep the athletics track, ticking the legacy box, and are the “logical” choice.
WHEN WILL A DECISION BE MADE?
The Olympic Park Legacy Company is due to pick the winner on 28 January.