By Duncan Mackay

London 2012_Olympic_Stadium_May_8_2012May 30 - Leyton Orient are to approach West Ham United in a bid to ground-share the Olympic Stadium, despite its chairman Barry Hearn having claimed earlier this year that it "is not fit for football".

But Hearn has now had a dramatic change of heart and confirmed that he plans to seek urgent talks with West Ham owners David Gold and David Sullivan to see if they are interested in the idea.

Hearn had previously insisted he was not interested in the 60,000-capacity Olympic Stadium as the spectators would be located too far away from the pitch due to the running track, which must stay whoever takes over the arena.

But West Ham have reportedly come up with a system of retractable seating that could be installed over the track at a cost of £10 million ($15.5 million/€12.5 million) and bring the fans much closer to the field of play. 

"Subject to the changes West Ham are asking for, namely covering the running track, we'd be interested in bidding for the Stadium as part of a ground-share with them," Hearn told the BBC.

"We will now talk with the Olympic authorities."

Orient's current ground at Brisbane Road, where they have played since 1937, is located less than a mile from the Olympic Stadium and Hearn fears that if West Ham move there it could badly hit the club's support, especially as they won promotion back to the Premier League this season.

Brisbane Road
He had threatened legal action if West Ham moved there but now appears to have decided that it would be more beneficial in cutting a deal with his neighbours and the London Legacy Development Corporation (LDDC), formerly the Olympic Park Legacy Company, who are responsibile for finding a tennant for the Stadium. 

West Ham had won the original race to win the Stadium last year but the OPLC later pulled out of the deal because of legal problems.

They reopened the process in January and received inital interest from 16 parties, including Orient. 

They did not, however, submit a formal bid by the original March 23 deadline, unlike West Ham, who were one of four parties who did.

Although the identity of one of the bidders is unknown, the others are the University of East London and Essex County Cricket Club, who had previously supported West Ham's original bid to move into the Olympic Stadium.

Earlier this month the LDDC announced it was extending the tenancy bidding process for a 99-year lease on the Olympic Stadium until after the Games.

LLDC chief executive Andrew Altman added that it was hoped contracts for converting the Stadium would be signed by October, with the intention of re-opening the venue in 2014.

Hearn had also previously approached the Lee Valley Regional Park Authority (LVRPA) with a proposal for Orient to take over the London 2012 hockey arena after the Games, an idea that was swiftly rejected by the authorities.

If West Ham do agree to share with Orient and take over the Stadium they would be the first clubs in England to permanently share a ground.

Although common on the continent, it is virtually unheard of in Britain.

The rare examples usually occur when one club loses its home and is forced to share for a while, including when Wimbledon shared with Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park before being brought and moving to Milton Keynes and when Charlton Athletic had to leave the Valley for seven years and were tennants of Crystal Palace and West Ham before returning. 

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