By Andrew Warshaw in London

February 11 - After months of often bitter wrangling, West Ham United was officially confirmed today as the preferred bidder to take over the Olympic Stadium after the London 2012 Games.

The Olympic Park Legacy Company (OPLC) Board announced that the east London club had beaten North London Premiership rivals Tottenham Hotspur in the race move to the stadium in Stratford.

The recommendation of West Ham, which will now have to be ratified by both the Mayor of London and two government departments, came as no surprise to anyone - possibly not even those backing the Spurs bid.

Whilst on paper Tottenham's bid made far more commercial sense, the club had been swimming against the tide in recent weeks amid increasing support for West Ham from politicians, senior sporting figures and the general public.

Tottenham's insistence that they would remove the running track whilst dismantling the stadium appeared to count heavily against them, even though the plan reflected the growing trend across Europe for football-specific stadiums.

Two days before the 14-strong OPLC board's announcement, the choice of West Ham was leaked to the BBC.

Although the official verdict was delayed by over an hour, everyone in the Westminster hall in the shadow of Big Ben virtually knew what had been decided.

Baroness Margaret Ford, the Board's chairman, revealed the decision had been unanimous and that West Ham would provide "the very best legacy" for the stadium, despite Tottenham's promise to provide, what they claimed would be, a vibrant 25,000-capacity athletics facility at Crystal Palace as part of its privately funded bid.

The choice of West Ham, crucially, will see athletics instead retained inside a 60,000-capacity stadium in Stratford, close to the club's current stadium in east London.

Baroness Ford claimed the selection process had been "fair and robust" and that the OPLC would not have even entertained Tottenham's bid if it had not been with an open mind.

Yet in a brief question and answer session, she declined to go into detail as to why it had been rejected, preferring to focus on the fact that all five objectives for selecting an Olympics stadium tenant had been given equal weight.

"Our job today was to judge the merits against the five criteria we have set out from the start of the process," she said.

"This has not been an easy decision and, despite what has been trailed in some of the newspapers, this has not been a fait accompli.

"We have taken this very seriously indeed.

"Both bidders were considered seriously on the merits - that's what our job was."

Interestingly she said West Ham's bid, which relies on £40 million of public money from the poorest Borough in London, would provide the most "sustainable economic legacy", a remark that is bound to infuriate Tottenham who have frequently warned of a post-Games white elephant if West Ham were preferred.

London's Mayor Boris Johnson clearly welcomed the decision, however.

"This milestone means we now have the prospect of a local football club and a multi-use venue capable of hosting athletics, a range of other sports and a vibrant programme of events for the local community and schools," he said.

And in a statement, the British Olympic Association went even further, shrugging off suggestions that the decision had been politically motivated rather than taken on superior legacy and commercial grounds.

"The recommendation announced today by the Olympic Park Legacy Company is a victory for athletes, for sport and, importantly, for the generations of young people who will see their lives transformed as a result of the London 2012 Olympic Games," Andy Hunt, the BOA chief executive, said.

"This is also a victory for the reputation of British sport globally. The recommendation announced today, if ultimately accepted, will be a major step forward in delivering on that promise."

UK Athletics chairman Ed Warner said the decision was "a fantastic opportunity for generations to come."

"There is going to be football sitting side by side with athletics and a whole host of other community events at this stadium.

"It was what the legacy of the Olympics was always intended to be about."

Despite Baroness Ford describing West Ham's bid as "the more compelling", there remain huge doubts, however, about whether the OPLC have made the most sensible, practical proposal.

Wrong decision, right reasons was how some put it after the unanimous vote to recommend West Ham.

Certainly there is a case to suggest that West Ham will never fill the stadium, especially if they are no longer in the top flight.

But Tottenham's plan to bulldoze the entire site and get rid of the track, plus the fact that their traditional home is in a different part of London, appear to have stuck in the craw of the OPLC board.

West Ham vice-chairman Karren Brady, who had described Tottenham's plan to demolish the stadium as a "corporate crime", described today's announcement as "a momentous day" for her own club.

Spurs, who had made the Olympic stadium their priority after a series of setbacks over revamping their existing ground, were conversely left to lick their wounds and go back to the drawing board.

"We submitted an honest bid with the only solution we considered capable of delivering lasting regeneration," said a statement from the club who will now have to decide whether to rekindle the idea of upgrading White Hart Lane into a 56,000-seater venue or look into other possible sites.

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