West Ham given Olympic stadium nod but can soccer co-exist with track and field?

February 11, 2011

OLYMPICS-LONDON/STADIUMSo now we know: Premier League soccer club West Ham United will take over the Olympic Stadium in London following the 2012 Games, assuming there are no late objections from the British government or the city’s mayor.

The decision will be greeted with relief by many fans of the rival bidders Tottenham Hotspur for one simple reason — soccer does not generally co-exist very well with athletics.

As far as I know there are just two football league clubs in England who play at a stadium incorporating a running track — Brighton and Rotherham, though happy to be corrected if there are more – and none in the top tier Premier League.

There are still some around Europe, but a bit of digging around by our reporters this morning suggests a general discontent with the situation.

Certainly, Bayern Munich fans were delighted to see their team move out of the Olympic Stadium and into the Allianz Arena, purpose built for the 2006 World Cup. Hertha Berlin play their games at Germany’s other Olympic Stadium and from my own experience there the atmosphere is never great.

The problem soccer fans usually come back to again and again is that the running track puts too much distance between the fans and the pitch, destroying the atmosphere and making the ground a more comfortable place for the opposition to play.

So if West Ham are to preserve the Olympic legacy London promised they may have to make fans unhappy in the process. We shall see. Can’t wait to see a game there post-London 2012 in any case.

PHOTO: A sign in front of the 2012 Olympics stadium points towards West Ham, London February 10, 2011. REUTERS/Toby Melville

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