West Ham United is to move into the Olympic Stadium after the London 2012 Games, the Olympic Park Legacy Company (OPLC) announced today.
The Hammers were officially named as the preferred bidder for the showpiece £537m venue ahead of London Premier League rivals Tottenham Hotspur.
OPLC chair Baroness Ford said the board had considered really carefully and come to a unanimous decision that West Ham United, in the London borough of Newham, should be the long-term tenant.
She said it was a “cracking decision for the community of east London”.
The unanimous decision was made after a vote by 14 members of the OPLC board at a special meeting where the future of the venue in Stratford, east London, was the only topic. The meeting started at 8am and the announcement was made soon after it ended just after 12.20pm.
The decision still has to be rubber-stamped by the government and the London mayor’s office, but it would be a major surprise if it was not accepted.
West Ham’s success, even in the face of relegation, means an athletics track will stay inside the stadium.
The club, in a joint bid with Newham LBC, wants to convert the 80,000-seater stadium into a 60,000-capacity arena for football, athletics, concerts and community use.
Tottenham’s plans, part of a joint bid with AEG sport and entertainment group, was to create a football-only stadium without the track and redevelop Crystal Palace for athletics.
West Ham’s success means that ministers and London mayor Boris Johnson, who might have been accused of breaking athletics legacy promises to the International Olympic Committee, have been saved potential embarrassment .
London 2012 chairman Lord Coe was among those calling for the track to be maintained.
Tim Leiweke, president of Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG), has claimed the Olympic Stadium will “go broke in 10 years” if an athletics track is retained.
The OPLC is aiming for a deal to be struck on the stadium and contracts signed by the end of the financial year.
In a joint statement, culture secretary Jeremy Hunt and communities secretary Eric Pickles said: “Today’s recommendation by the OPLC board marks an important milestone for the future of the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and the whole of the Olympic project.
“We would like to thank Baroness Ford and all her board members for the conscientious and thorough way they have approached the decision-making process.
“We will look through their recommendation in detail before coming to our own decision. We aim to make a formal announcement to Parliament shortly.”