Keeping the flame alive: the Olympic and Paralympic Legacy - Select Committee on Olympic and Paralympic Legacy Contents


231.  As noted in Chapter Four above, a key potential strand to the UK's ambitions to host future events is the presence of world class sports facilities for a variety of different sports. The majority of the venues used for the Games were existing or temporary venues. This Chapter looks at the future use of the permanent facilities.

The Olympic Stadium

232.  One of the most significant of the perceived "White Elephants" which have sometimes been thought to be left by the hosting of Games is the Olympic Stadium itself. The future use of the Stadium has been a source of some controversy.

233.  The Stadium is owned by a partnership between LLDC and the London Borough of Newham, which have established a partnership, E20 Stadium LLP, to govern its use. In March 2013, West Ham United Football Club was awarded a 99 year lease as anchor concession, with football fixtures enjoying primacy over other events. In the period June-August each year, the Stadium will be available for major events organised by UK Athletics. During the whole year, it will also be used for other events, including community events, rugby matches and concerts, fitting around football fixtures.

234.  When the Stadium design was first made available in 2007, it followed the plan set out in the successful 2005 bid: an 80,000 stadium for the Games, to be converted into a 25,000 seat stadium for mixed use, principally for athletics events. The 2013 agreement will see a reduction from 80,000 seats to 60,000, with retractable seating to allow it to be converted from a football to an athletics venue.

235.  Lord Coe defended what might seem to have been a change in heart from the aspirations of the bid, arguing that "nobody went into that bidding process saying that this would be a single-use stadium". "We needed to build an Olympic stadium. We were committed to a stadium in East London. That is where we had proposed for the Games to go. We did speak ... to football at the time that we were putting the bid together. I am choosing my words carefully; there was not a massive amount of interest, when we were thinking about what that stadium might look like, post the Games, from football." "By the time we got to Singapore, we had a judgment to make, and that is why of course the Stadium was in extremis designed to be reduced to a 25,000-seater track-and-field facility with usage for other sports."[87]

236.  Richard Sumray argued that West Ham had in fact been interested in taking over the stadium when he discussed the issue with the Club in 2001. He regretted the counter proposals, which aimed to put athletics "into the mix", which in his view "made the whole process of finalising the ownership and uses of the stadium much more difficult. Early on a decision should have been made to use the main stadium for football, converting the warm up track to an athletics stadium. This would have been a more sustainable and appropriate use of that part of the Park."[88]

237.  The owner of Leyton Orient Football Club, Barry Hearn, told us that "[Leyton Orient] were always intended to be the football tenant post-Games in a small, 25,000-seater stadium, which is obviously in the proximity of Leyton Orient Football Club." He said that, having been approached by the ODA in 2007, the Club turned down tenancy because the athletics track would be fixed.[89]

238.  David Luckes, who authored the initial feasibility study for the bid, supported the view that its use by West Ham United FC in concert with an athletics facility was "broadly consistent" with the approach to the Stadium taken from the outset because of the need to have a viable anchor tenant in addition to being able to host major athletics events at points in the year.[90]

239.  Karen Brady, Vice-Chairman of West Ham United FC, told us that football and athletics would "suit each other very well" and that a memorandum of understanding had been written up with UK Athletics.[91]

240.  Mr Hearn criticised the investment of public money into the conversion of the Stadium into a ground primarily for West Ham's use, calling it "state sponsorship beyond my wildest dreams".[92] Sir Robin Wales, Mayor of Newham, was enthusiastic about the deal which he said would in time deliver the borough "a very good return as well as paying off our loan".[93] Dennis Hone, Chief Executive of the LLDC, defended the bid process and argued that the outcome was "a good deal for taxpayers, in that if you have an Olympic stadium with a capacity in excess of 60,000 seats, you need a concessionaire that is going to be able to fill it and use it and bring vitality to that area of London". With this in mind, he said that West Ham's bid was "the only credible bid on the table".[94]

241.  The largest area of controversy has emanated from the argument, made to us by Waltham Forest Borough Council and Leyton Orient Football Club, that the LLDC had not given sufficient consideration to the likely impact of the deal on Leyton Orient. The fairness of the bid process, which resulted in West Ham being awarded preferred bidder status by the LLDC, was challenged by Barry Hearn, who unsuccessfully sought to judicially review the process. The Leader of Waltham Forest Council, Chris Robbins, argued that:

    "There has been no effort made by the Olympic authorities to see what effect turning that stadium into a football venue would have on the Orient. That is the key point … It is simple things like ensuring that matches do not take place on the same day. It is simple things like ensuring that tickets are not given away when you have another club a few hundred yards down the road. Those issues have to be answered"[95]

242.  Mr Hearn also told us that the decision would have an adverse effect on Leyton Orient, particularly for its likely impact on attracting new season ticket holders over time:

    "The effect of this is to condemn Leyton Orient over a five-year period, not necessarily to death, but certainly to dropping down the leagues, because as you know, we operate within a 60% revenue rule, and as our revenue drops, so our availability to spend money on our squad drops. This is the kiss of death."[96]

243.  He argued that the impact on Leyton Orient would be mitigated by the option of a ground-sharing agreement to be reconsidered by LLDC. For her part, Ms Brady confirmed that West Ham had entered its bid with the willingness to share with other users but was not able to give a view on whether the club felt another football club would be a feasible tenant. Mr Hone said that Leyton Orient "was given ample opportunity to clarify and revise the financial structure of its offer" to share the ground but did not do so. His view was that it "would have cost the public sector money to open the gates to Leyton Orient for each of its games", in a 60,000 capacity stadium because of the club's relatively low existing gates.[97]

244.  The bid process has been completed and construction is well underway to convert the Stadium to its new use. It is not for this Committee to comment on the fairness or otherwise of the process, which has recently been subject to a failed application for judicial review. In examining the arguments over the Stadium's future use, we are concerned that the central point is being missed: the Stadium is a national asset and the focus should be on making the best use of it for the community and for the taxpayer. There is also the issue of the important morale and leadership role two successful football clubs can have in their local community, particularly in encouraging the motivation and aspirations of less motivated children in education. Ongoing conflict and bad relationships will only hinder the impact they can have on this vital work.

245.  The ongoing dispute over the Stadium has been a disappointing distraction. We urge those concerned to think further on how the two most local football clubs might work together, including whether any difficulties can be ameliorated through wider community use of the Stadium, which may include its occasional use by Leyton Orient FC if appropriate financial arrangements can be agreed. (Recommendation 12)

246.  We have also received concerns over the design of the stadium and in particular its potential impact on supporters with disabilities. Level Playing Field asked whether, by lowering the roof and removing the upper tier of seating, the design for the Stadium might affect adversely affect the quality and quantity of seating provided for spectators with disabilities. In evidence, Ms Brady gave the Committee "absolute assurance" that when the top tier of the Olympic stadium is taken off, there will be no reduction in the number of disabled spectator viewing areas, or in the quality of sight lines, and that disabled fans will not be moved around from one part of the stadium to another.[98]

247.  Baroness Grey-Thompson told us of the positive experience for disabled spectators at the Games, with better access at the venues including the ability to seat wheelchair users alongside their families. She contrasted this to the position of "most Premiership football stadiums" which were:

    "pretty shocking if you are a wheelchair user. There is a large number of clubs who do not allow disabled people to buy season tickets; they can be given tickets in one out of every three games, which means you cannot complain about your sightline, your accessible seating, toilets or whether you have to sit with away fans or home and away fans together. There is a big piece of work that could be done."[99]

248.  In evidence, Lord Faulkner of Worcester asked the Secretary of State whether she would support changes to the licensing conditions which are attached to football grounds to include minimum levels of disabled access. She replied that "there is an obligation on any provider of a service to consider the needs of disabled individuals, and I am very happy to look more closely at the point... about licensing conditions, but for me, goodness, it just makes common sense, does it not?"[100] In supplementary written evidence, she highlighted the potential complexity of altering the licensing regime.

249.  We are reassured by West Ham United's firm guarantee that the quality and quantity of seating for spectators with disabilities will not be compromised by the re-design of the stadium. We hope that the Olympic Stadium will set a gold standard for accessibility. We are concerned that by contrast the position at many Premier and Football League stadia is unacceptable for spectators with disabilities.

250.  We urge the Government to work with the football authorities and the Sports Grounds Safety Authority to revise the licensing conditions under the Safety of Sports Grounds Act 1975 to ensure appropriate and improved standards of access and facilities for disabled spectators. (Recommendation 13)

The future use of other facilities in the Olympic Park and outside

251.  As well as the Olympic Stadium, the Park boasts an Aquatics Centre, a Velodrome and the Copper Box, all of which are being or have been converted into their final legacy configurations on their previous sites. The Hockey arena has been moved to Eton Manor, in the north of the Park.

252.  The Committee was shown round the Copper Box as part of its visit to the Olympic Park in September 2013. There we met representatives of LLDC and Greenwich Leisure Limited (GLL), which secured a ten year contract from the LLDC to run the Copper Box and the Aquatic Centre. Running both venues allowed GLL to operate a cross-subsidy from the Copper Box to the less profitable Aquatic Centre. We were told about GLL's "school's forum" programme, whereby children from local primary schools are invited to use the Copper Box as an initial experience of high level facilities, with those demonstrating enthusiasm or aptitude for a sport are put on a pathway in that sport with the eventual aim of integrating the children in local sports clubs. Twenty schools from the surrounding boroughs were currently participating in this scheme and GLL hoped to grow this. The Copper Box would serve as host to a number of events over the coming year, including professional boxing, basketball games and a badminton grand prix, as well as hosting home fixtures for local handball and netball teams. The majority of the Copper Box's income was expected to be generated by such events, but GLL's intention was to increase the income from community use as it expanded over time. During the week, the Copper Box was dedicated to PE teaching for local schools from 09.00 to 16.00 and from 16.00 onwards for sports clubs. A new gymnasium onsite was also open to the public, which Paul Brickell of the LLDC told us already had "150 more memberships than they should have after three weeks of being open. People with small kids are going there after school, and people are beginning to use it, so that will generate another sort of footfall, so we are fairly confident."[101]

253.  We heard from the Lee Valley Regional Park that there were pre-existing plans for a velopark and a white water centre, both of which Shaun Dawson said had been planned "in the late 1990s and into the 2000s". He said that the "happy coincidence" of the 2012 Olympics had allowed them to be delivered "bigger, better and sooner—and, as a result, to deliver a much better legacy for the nation."[102] By contrast, there were no direct plans to build a tennis or a hockey centre at Eton Manor.[103]

254.  Outside the Park, the Lee Valley White Water Centre, the Eton Dorney Rowing Centre, the Hadleigh Farm Mountain Biking Centre and the Weymouth Sailing Centre were either developed or improved for the Games and will all reopen to a mix of elite and community use. The sailing facility at Weymouth has generated significant legacy use plans, although the Weymouth and Portland Sailing Authority told us that financial requests made to government for financial support in attracting further major events have not met with success.

255.  The issue of community use is a key one, and an important part of the balance with the hosting of events and the provision of training facilities for high performance athletes. The London Borough of Newham expresses satisfaction with the legacy plans for the OP facilities. However, while welcoming access to major events for its residents concern was expressed by Waltham Forest Council about the arrangements for community use of Olympic Park facilities. Level Playing Field told us of the need to continue to ensure accessibility for disabled groups in Olympic Park and other facilities; and made financial and social cases for doing so.[104]

256.  Lee Valley Regional Park told us that there was a trade off between participation legacy and financial viability; it aims to break-even within three years. We were concerned at some of the pricing, particularly of the White Water facilities, which would cost a family of four £200 to use once. In response, Shaun Dawson told us that they were developing community initiatives "outside of the pricing for our regular customers" but conceded "that we have some way to go in terms of reaching out even further than we are at the moment. There is a lot that we are doing that is not necessarily visible in terms of pricing policy, but we have to look more carefully at the programme and other products and ways of reaching out to different groups. That is a fair point."[105]

257.  A key part of the legacy value of the Games' facilities was their future use in attracting sporting events to the UK. The value of these venues for the future staging of events seems already to have been demonstrated. At the same time, we are concerned that not enough has been done to ensure that the facilities are affordable and accessible to those in the local community.

258.  We call for the pricing structure at facilities such as the White Water facilities in Lee Valley Regional Park to be reviewed. As with our recommendations on the facilities in many independent schools, we see enormous legacy value in utilising these facilities as hubs for schools and clubs. (Recommendation 14)

87   Q 66 Back

88   Richard Sumray. Back

89   Q 250 Back

90   Q 114 Back

91   Q 275 Back

92   Q 254 Back

93   Q 199 Back

94   Q 313 Back

95   Q 202 Back

96   Q 258 Back

97   Q 313 Back

98   Q 280 Back

99   Q 134 Back

100   Q 482 Back

101   Q 317 Back

102   Q 319 Back

103   Q 320 Back

104   Level Playing Field. Back

105   Q 329 Back

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