London Mayor Sadiq Khan Takes Control Of Former Olympic Stadium
London Mayor Sadiq Khan is "taking control of the former Olympic stadium used by Premier League side West Ham United after an independent review disclosed rising costs and mounting losses," according to Elizabeth Piper of REUTERS. Khan called the findings "simply staggering," with projected annual losses of around £20M ($27M), and said that West Ham secured "the deal of the century" from his predecessor, Boris Johnson. Asked whether the stadium at the heart of the 2012 Olympic Park might be closed, sold or re-tendered, he said that he was "exploring all avenues." West Ham pays rent of £2.5M ($3.4M) per season for the stadium, which has been co-owned by the London Legacy Development Corp. and the local Newham Council. The east London club said that its contract was "watertight and legally binding," and that it remained "absolutely committed to its terms for the entire 99-year duration." It also "backed the mayor's actions." Khan said, "We're going to work with West Ham, they're our partners. It's not their fault that they were given such a fantastic deal by the previous mayor. Who can blame them?" Newham Council said that it would "voluntarily relinquish ownership," writing off an original £40M ($53.9M) investment but limiting future liabilities. Newham Mayor Robin Wales blamed Johnson, now Britain's foreign minister, for "onerous" contracts that left the stadium finances in a "dreadful mess." The review showed transformation costs after the 2012 Olympics rose to £323M from a budget estimate of £190M (REUTERS, 12/1). In London, David Conn reported the cost of conversion "was almost entirely paid with public money." Khan said, "Not for the first time, it reveals a bungled decision-making process that has the previous mayor's fingerprints all over it. Boris Johnson clearly panicked when faced with legal challenges about West Ham and Newham's joint bid to take ownership of the stadium and then decided to rerun the bid process with the taxpayer taking all the risks and footing almost the whole bill. You simply couldn't make it up" (GUARDIAN, 12/1).