Independent inquiry approves decision process to award Olympic Stadium to West Ham
Monday, 22 August 2011
August 22 - The Olympic Park Legacy Company (OPLC) has concluded there are no grounds for reconsidering their recommendation to award the Olympic Stadium in Stratford to West Ham United following the London 2012 Games after an independent inquiry they commissioned approved the decision.
The investigation came after The Sunday Times made allegations in July claiming that Dionne Knight, the OPLC's director of corporate services, had received over £20,000 ($32,990/€22,900) from the joint West Ham and Newham Council procurement company for consultancy work during their contest for the stadium with rivals Tottenham Hotspur.
However, the six-week inquiry conducted by accountants Moore Stephens claimed that there is no evidence to suggest Knight had any influence over the decision and exonerated the OPLC from any wrongdoing during the bidding process.
The review has concluded that there is no reason to re-open the bidding process, which will be a huge relief to West Ham who were awarded preferred the bidder status from the OPLC back in February.
West Ham's own independent inquiry had reached the same conclusion three weeks ago but the conclusion of the latest investigation is a major boost to them and another huge blow to Tottenham who are still challenging the decision.
Tottenham are due to present evidence again at an oral hearing at the High Court on Wednesday (August 24), while Leyton Orient chair Barry Hearn is looking to take their case to the European courts, claiming that West Ham moving into Stratford will seriously harm his club due to their close proximity to the Olympic Stadium.
If the court rules in favour of Tottenham or Orient, it could cause serious delays for the OPLC who are trying to negotiate a final agreement with West Ham and their partners Newham Council.
The OPLC refused to confirm to insidethegames whether Knight, who had been suspended sinceThe Sunday Times allegations, had been reinstated to her role following the conclusion of the investigation.
However, the ruling of the independent investigation is the biggest indication yet that West Ham will safely move into the Stadium.
The news is also a major boost to UK Athletics, who last week officially committed to bidding to host the 2017 World Championships at the venue despite the row.
West Ham is the only football club that have committed to keeping the athletics track in place in the Stadium after London 2012, and UK Athletics chairman Ed Warner told insidethegames that no bid would have been put forward unless his organisation and its partners felt sure that the legal dispute around the Olympic Stadium would not hamper London's chances of securing the 2017 World Championships.
London is fighting with Doha and an unnamed Spanish city, probably Barcelona, for the right to host the 2017 competition and will be hoping for victory after their last three bids for the world's top athletics events ended in disaster.
London's bid for the 2001 World Championships was abandoned after initial plans for an athletics track to be included in the redevelopment of Wembley Stadium were scrapped and the city was forced to hand the 2005 Championships to Helsinki after being awarded them when a promise from then Prime Minister Tony Blair that Britain would build a new stadium at Picketts Lock in North London failed to materialise.
London's latest bid for the 2015 World Championships fell through due to the lack of clarity over the future of the Stadium and UK Athletics will be increasingly hopeful the same problem does not come back to haunt them when the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) make their decision on the 2017 bid in Monaco in November this year.
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