Wednesday, February 9

Olympic stadium

Just done a tour of the Olympic Stadium. It’s designed by the same team that built the Emirates and the feel around the circular concourse outside is similar.

Inside it’s surprisingly intimate. It doesn’t feel like an 80,000 seater stadium at all and every seat has a good view (West Ham will apparently change the roof and make it a 55,000 seater). So it does feel like the Hammers fans could get a good atmosphere going.

But the problem is that running track. It looks very big from the seats and the central area is small at present – hopefully it will be expanded when a football pitch is laid. Spurs claim fans will be 40 metres from the goalline.

Much rests on Karren Brady’s statement that the club is spending £90 million on “reconfiguration of seats”. I’m still not sure exactly what this means. A steeper angle? Some seats closer to the track at the sides?

We have to hope that the WHUFC team has explored other stadiums with athletics/football stadiums and really considered what’s best for the club and fans rather than their bank balance — although as we’re £80 million in debt you could argue we have to move to survive. And 55,000 fans would take us above Spurs in match revenue terms.

An interesting point is that the Olympic delivery people say West Ham were consulted in 2006, but under Terry Brown the club said we didn’t want to move. Had we said yes then it could have been designed to have retractable seats over the running track.

But on the plus side the Olympic Park’s an exciting area and the Velodrome with its wooden exterior looks fantastic. There’s a huge basketball area made of PVC that looks like a giant sugar lump and would surely be the ideal location for a reconfigured Ken’s Café and Newham Bookshop. And it’s nice to be close to the River Lea two miles downriver from where we started put at Thames Ironworks.

Really, we won’t know what the stadium’s like until we’re in it. Maybe we’ll get used to it. The atmosphere at the 1980 FA Cup Final was pretty good despite Wembley’s running track.

But to be honest it’s a dilemma. Great stadium, problematic running track. Although if we get it, at least our subs should be fit from all those track circuits.

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