Robertson: Stadium deal almost done

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The Government are close to ratifying the choice of West Ham to take over the Olympic Stadium, the sports and Olympics minister Hugh Robertson confirmed on Sunday.

Robertson said he had studied the papers produced by the Olympic Park Legacy Company (OPLC), who selected West Ham as the preferred bidder over Tottenham on Friday, and has been satisfied the process had been done correctly.

The choice has to be ratified by two Government departments - the departments of culture, media and sport, and communities and local government - and the London Mayor's office, and Robertson told BBC Radio Five's Sportsweek: "I have read all the board papers carefully and I'm entirely sure myself the OPLC's process was robust and independent."

Asked if in that case he would vote for West Ham to get the stadium, he added: "There is a process to go through but West Ham are clearly in the lead. I'm absolutely convinced that the OPLC process has been robust and independent, so yes.

"We want to make a formal announcement to Parliament but we know the clock is ticking and we want to get it done as quickly as possible."

Robertson said he did not believe the issue of the running track would cause problems to football fans at the stadium, and said West Ham could have retractable seating so long as they kept their promises to athletics.

He added: "People tend to think of a 1980s' mixed use stadium. This is a much more modern stadium, the sightlines are much better, the fans are much closer to centre spot than the outer seats at Wembley.

"Anybody who has stood in the middle of where the pitch will be will tell you that it looks much, much better. If West Ham want to bring in retractable seating and can still fulfil the promises they made to athletics then that's fair enough."

Robertson also confirmed he was keen to support a bid for the 2017 world athletics championships but that there need to be talks on underwriting the cost of staging the event - around £45million.

He said: "The world athletics championships are quite expensive things to bid for - they require considerable underwriting of around £45million. Ticket sales only bring a small proportion in, so we have to look at that very carefully indeed with the financial position we are in."

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