By Duncan Mackay

Westfield_exterior_2September 7 - London 2012 today announced that it had reached its £700 million ($1.1 billion/€798 million) sponsorship target after signing-up Westfield as its 44th domestic sponsor.

The Tier Three deal, worth £10 million ($16 million/€11 million), was announced less than a week before Westfield opens the largest shopping centre in Europe on the edge of the Olympic Park.

Previous Organising Committtees have signed licensing deals with retail chains but it is thought to be the first time a shopping centre has acquired official Olympic status.

Westfield, an Australian company founded by Frank Lowy in Sydney in 1959, hope the exclusive marketing rights will give the £1.45 billion ($2.31 billion/€1.65 billion) Stratford City development, which includes 300 shops and more than 50 places to eat, a boost when it opens next Tuesday (September 13) and plan to give its newest shopping Olympic makeover using the London 2012 brand and logo.

The deal covers all ten of the shopping centres Westfield owns around Britain, including the one in Shepherd's Bush, but the main focus is expected to centre on 1.9million square foot centre Stratford City, which forms a gateway to the Olympic Park and is only a short distance from the Olympic Stadium and the Aquatics Centre and where London 2012 has secured floorspace.

As part of the deal, the first ever TeamGB and ParalympicsGB merchandise shop will open next month and which will be crucial to London 2012 reaching its target of raising £80 million ($128 million/€91 million ) through sales of licensed products as three-quarters of spectators attending the Games will be routed through Westfield before entering security checks.

"We are delighted to be extending our relationship with LOCOG in the sponsorship announced today," said  Michael Gutman, the managing director for Westfield UK/Europe and New Markets.

"We expect that Westfield Stratford City will enhance the whole Olympic experience in the period leading up to and during the Games as well as providing a unique boost to the legacy for many years beyond as well."

London 2012, which will employ 200,000 people at next summer's peak, will also use the mall as an operational and logistics hub by taking over the 3,000-space car park and setting up temporary offices.

The mall will also host the official hospitality zone for Team GB.

Westfield has handed over cash for part of the deal but the largest part is believed to be "value-in-kind" use of the shopping centre.

Separate to the deal, London 2012 has taken the 600-plus rooms in Stratford City's three hotels, the Holiday Inn, Premier Inn and Stalybridge Rooms.

"With Westfield Stratford City on the doorstep of the Olympic Park and set to be a major destination for athletes and spectators alike at Games-time, it is an obvious and perfect fit," said Paul Deighton, the chief executive of London 2012. 

"Alongside the Olympic Park, Westfield Stratford City is a tangible example of how East London is at the start of an exciting new journey.

"It is with great pride that this deal takes us to our target of raising £700 million in domestic sponsorship.

"We have a fantastic group of world class sponsors on board, now joined by Westfield, working with us to stage spectacular Games next summer.

"We are very grateful to all of our sponsors for helping to provide the people, products and services we need to stage the Olympic and Paralympic Games next summer."

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