As one who, having covered the Olympiads and written a novel, The Olympian, generously received in the USA and Russia (no, 105,000 sold and never a ruble) detests the very anachronistic idea of the Olympics with its soaring monumental expense and its infamous white elephants: I hope West Ham United stay at Upton Park.
They can I believe be thankful that the original idea of their actually buying the Olympic Stadium has sputtered out. But should they be going there at all? At present they say they won’t confirm their interest till they know what the deal will be. Very wise.
What we know is that the hardly impressive Olympic Park Legacy Company will retain ownership of the stadium. They are now casting around somewhat ominously for a so called naming rights partner, in a bid to fill the £20 million hole in the cost of converting the stadium after the fat cats in their limousines have gone home, the drug users have won their athletics medals and financial anxieties loom.
Blithely the OPLC announce that they are not dependent on soccer for the future of the stadium; so there? They announce that all sorts of other sports and organisations, even cricket and American gridiron football, have expressed an interest in using the stadium. Does one hear a note of desperation? Come what come may, even if West Ham come the running track will remain though we learn that were Hammers to lease the stadium, it would be covered for football.
Yet even after the estimated £95 million conversion and down sizing of the stadium has taken place, is it a proper home for West Ham. Covered or not covered the running track will distance supporters from the play. And what of the capacity? Even downsized, the stadium will accommodate 60,000 spectators.
Spurs could probably fill it but their bid is no more and they hope, though costs will be huge, to build a stadium near White Hart Lane’s. But with all due respect for Hammers and their fans, wouldn’t a 60,000 stadium be substantially too big for its purpose? I hope with some fervour that they stay at Upton Park, compact and ideal for soccer, rich in history and achievement. But long past their sell by date the Olympics alas survive. A costly anachronism. Thank you, Jowell and Coe!
If football could be succinctly defined, it might simply be called a game of injuries. No more than ever, despite the great advance in medical techniques and training methods, the sheer speed and endless physical challenge of the modern game means that players are perpetually dropping by the wayside.
Their injuries don’t always come in games; sometimes they occur in training sometimes, most ironically, during the kick in. Memorable indeed was the glorious display in the 2006 World Cup in Germany by the veteran Trinidad keeper Shaka Hislop – I was lucky enough to be there – who stepped so superbly into the breach when the first choice keeper hurt himself; in the kick in!
Last Sunday I watched Spurs labour to a wingless 1-0 victory over Sunderland. Wingless because the indispensable Gareth Bale had hurt himself the previous day in training (please note) while Aaron Lennon on the right limped off early and could be out for six weeks.
How can poor Harry Redknapp guard against such misfortune. Or, not far away, can Arsene Wenger afflicted at Arsenal by a plethora of injuries. Had an established right back been fit to play rather than Johan Djourou – himself hurt that day been there could unmarked Mario Balotelli have found space to shoot? Then Djourou himself was injured!