Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Olympic Legacy Chief: Keep 80,000-Seat Stadium for World Cup Bid

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Olympic Legacy Chief: Keep 80,000-Seat Stadium for World Cup Bid

Article excerpt

Byline: Matthew Beard Sports News Correspondent

THE woman who has the job of creating a legacy for the Olympic Park is to propose a shake-up of the plans for the main stadium.

As the newly appointed head of the Olympic legacy company, Margaret Ford signalled a likely U-turn by saying the venue should keep its 80,000 seats rather than being reduced to 25,000 after the 2012 Olympic Games.

She raised the prospect of the stadium hosting matches at the 2018 World Cup as part of an "iconic offer for London" if England's bid for the event is successful.

Baroness Ford, an urban regeneration expert who became chairwoman of London Partnership in 2002 and took the Millennium Dome off the taxpayers' hands by selling it to AEG, said she was convinced the "beautiful" stadium could pay its way as an all-year "visitor attraction".

The mother of three from Edinburgh, who was made a Labour peer in 2006, is said by former colleagues to "know in her bones how the public-sector machine works".

In another departure from the venue's original post-2012 proposals, she looks set to scrap plans to build a specialist sports school in the stadium.

In her first interview in the new role, she said: "I'd like to think about what we can do in terms of a really strong visitor attraction to the park. At the moment that doesn't quite sing out to me from the masterplanning that's been done with the stadium in particular."

Lady Ford, 51, began work a month ago as the [pounds sterling]95,000-a-year chair of the soon-to-be-formed Olympic legacy company and is answerable to the Mayor and the Government. Working with her American chief executive, Andrew Altman, she will be a key player in realising the wider ambitions of the Olympics.

Among her main tasks will be to sell land to recoup about [pounds sterling]600 million spent by the London Development Agency on buying the 600-hectare Olympic site, effectively returning the proceeds to the taxpayer over a 30-year period.

She added: "People you talk to say that what is needed is a much stronger sporting legacy there and I want to work very closely so that what we leave there is a knockout sporting legacy. …

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