West Ham musings by Pete May, author of Hammers in the Heart, West Ham:Irons in the Soul and Flying So High:West Ham's Cup Finals.
Tuesday, September 11
Road-testing the Olympic Stadium
Went to two Paralympics events at the Olympic Stadium last week, one morning session and one evening. It's certainly nice to walk to the stadium over the River Lea, which gives a sense of continuity with the original Thames Ironworks at Leamouth. The first thing you notice is that from the outside the stadium doesn't appear to be finished. It has no back to the stands, just strange white sashes, while the stairs to the upper tiers are open to the elements. Presumably work will have to be done to rectify this if it becomes a football stadium as it will be pretty cold in winter. The concourse has no retail outlets only some loos, with all the food on sale in the park outside. Hopefully Ken's Cafe will be moved into the giant McDonald's.
Inside the stadium it's really impressive, however. The Olympics crowds proved that it's easy to create a great atmosphere and when Team GB made Gold it was unforgettable. The view is good even from halfway back in the stands and it seemed surprisingly intimate for an 80,000-seater stadium. It's got two big screens and I was excited by the thought of 60,000 fans singing Bubbles in this huge bowl. At night the lighting certainly suggests it will have a special atmosphere. Maybe we could use the Games Makers to high-five fans as they leave too, though maybe not Millwall.
But there's still the problem of the athletics track. At present there's a large gap between the stands and the track. If that could be narrowed and the seating taken right up to the track it could work. Or as the Olympics Opening and Closing ceremonies proved, it seems fairly easy to cover over the track. Could the track and pitch levels be lowered to allow retractable seating? Or at least some deck chairs... The other big plus is that the transport links are superb compared to Upton Park, which would surely help us get 60,000. A further bonus is that the Stadium is now associated with something universally positive. It's a shame the confidentiality clauses don't allow West Ham to reveal what their plans are for conversion, but with such potential I think we have to go for it.