In my penultimate article on my Barry Hearn interview I will cover the claim that the authorities promised the Olympic Stadium to Leyton Orient from the outset. Later this week my final article will cover the contentious issue of ground sharing the Olympic Stadium and Barry’s challenge of “What harm can it do?”
One of Barry’s regular claims is the authorities spoke to Leyton Orient first and they were the original preferred tenant of the Olympic Stadium.
BH “I have never been in favor of anyone, West Ham or anyone getting the Olympic Stadium and there are lots and lots of reasons for this. Originally this was going to be a 25,000 seater stadium for us, that was the plan when we first won the Olympics. Tessa Jowell, Ken Livingstone’s plan was a Mecano set, 25,000 seats with a Mecano set above it , cheapest possible they could come up with, 7 years ago I told them you are building the wrong stadium, neither of them listened because they were running over budget but they said don’t worry we going to strip it all down and you are the preferred tenant to take the 25,000 seat stadium, that was 7 years ago, 2006”
BH “The falling down point on that discussion was I said I will not have a stadium with a running track, my words were I don’t dislike my fans that much to make them watch football in that atmosphere. Livingstone and Jowell both said that’s want we got to do, that’s the deal and I with withdrew interest in the stadium at that stage, that was the first stage of the Olympic development”
However, I understand the authorities contacted West Ham about potentially taking over the Olympic stadium as early as 2001. This seems to be confirmed by two articles still live on the WHUFC.com website.
This 2001 article which can still be read HERE says West Ham "Director Chris Manhire, who is overseeing the Dr. Martens stand redevelopment, says that the club have been approached about moving to a potential Olympic stadium in Stratford if England are awarded the games in 2012.All it is, we were approached by a consortium who are in the very early days are looking to bid for the 2012 Olympics for London. Because of the problems associated with Wembley and making it a dual purpose stadium, it means that the consortium are looking at other sites and have highlighted a site in Newham. We had a meeting putting a proposal to us about whether we would be interested in taking over the stadium after the Olympics in 2012, and our view was that we don’t want to shut any doors, and we basically said we would consider it. But that’s as far as it is; it’s very early days and if it does happen it wouldn’t happen until 2013, the following season to the Olympics.It will be a state of the art purpose built all seater up to 80,000 capacity so we would be mad to shut the door on them. We’re not committing the club to anything, we’re not spending any money, we’re just saying ‘yes, we want to talk to you, and keep us in the loop.’
In 2002 another article says: "Trevor Brooking says that the notion of West Ham playing in an Olympic stadium if London makes a bid for the 2012 games is a distant, if not inconceivable, idea. With a London bid a possibility, though no decision by the International Olympic Committee will be given until 2005, there have been suggestions that West Ham would fit the bill of going to the stadium after the games finished.Says Trevor: “It’s a little speck on the horizon”. That article can still be read HERE
Barry went on to claim
BH “Without my inference, I don’t believe West Ham would have ended up with a Stadium with the track being covered because that was a breaking point from the beginning and I think they finally saw the common sense of it”
BH “The initial discussion was for Leyton Orient, the local club to have the stadium, this was before West Ham showed any interest, We had already turned it down before West Ham”
I told Barry ‘I know you claim that but I haven’t seen that documentation’.
BH “We have submitted those to the House of Lords and we can probably find them for you if you wanted them”
I did ask Barry for these documents post interview relating to the 2006 discussions and I have been promised a copy when he returns from Las Vegas later this week.
The WHUFC.com articles above indicate initial discussions with West Ham United begun way before that. I am understand West Ham submitted evidence to both the Judicial Review and House of Lords to back this up. Not that it matters who was promised the Olympic Stadium first just who is promised it last.