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Excluding football from Olympic stadium will be London's greatest mistake, says Caborn
By Sportsmail Reporter
Olympic chiefs are now paying the price for snubbing football when designing the London 2012 stadium, former sports minister Richard Caborn has claimed.
At a meeting in February 2007, the Olympic Board ruled out further discussions with any top-flight club about changing the design of the £468million stadium to cater for football after the Games.
West Ham had been interested but at that board meeting then Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) chairman Sir Roy McNulty was told to inform the club of the decision.
Building work then started on the stadium based on the original design to keep the running track in place and without any plans for retractable seating to allow easy conversion for a football club to take place.
Caborn was due to tell a debate at the Oxford Union that it was a costly mistake to initially snub football.
He said: 'It was a great opportunity missed and we are paying the price for it now.
'We should have used the Manchester City model and designed it so that the stadium could be retro-fitted for football - using retractable seating and keeping the running track in place.
'The Olympics will be a great success but we have underachieved in a number of areas in legacy, including participation in sport and the Olympic Stadium.'
As sports minister, Caborn had championed football for the stadium but was over-ruled by others on the Olympic Board including London mayor Ken Livingstone, Olympics minister Tessa Jowell, London 2012 chairman Sebastian Coe, and British Olympic Association chairman Lord Moynihan.
It was only after Boris Johnson replaced Livingstone as London mayor in 2008 that he started to push for a football legacy.
The future of the stadium still remains uncertain after, in October, the Government scrapped a decision for West Ham to take it over following legal challenges from Tottenham.
The process has been reopened and the Olympic Park Legacy Company this week received 16 expressions of interest about taking over the stadium, and although West Ham remain favourites they want the public purse to pick up the £95million bill for converting it to football.
The Oxford Union are debating the motion: 'This House believes that the London Olympics will deliver the promised legacy', and Caborn is opposing the motion. BOA chief executive Andy Hunt is speaking in favour.
Caborn was also due to argue that the failure to hit targets on increasing sports participation is partly due to cuts to funding to school sport.
Current ODA chairman John Armitt admitted last month that, with hindsight, it may have been better to have built the stadium specifically for a football club to move in afterwards.
Armitt said: 'There was a commitment that there would be an international athletics stadium. We didn't want a white elephant so we consciously said let's design something which is demountable and can go from 80,000-seats to 25,000 post the Games.
'Today with hindsight would you have done a Manchester City solution? Maybe, but that would have cost quite a lot more. At that time our focus was on keeping within budget and keeping the costs down.
'What I think we have got is a superb stadium from an engineering point of view.'