November 17 - The Olympic Stadium would struggle to become a serious rival to Wembley for major events if it retains its capacity of 80,000 after the Games in 2012, it was claimed today.
David Bernstein, the chairman of Wembley National Stadium Ltd, revealed that the 90,000 stadium in North West London has staged 35 top events this year, the highest number yet for the venue, and suggested the maximum number of events of this size in London was about 40 big events per year.
If the Olympic Stadium was retained as an 80,000-seater arena then the two venues would be competing for the same business, Bernstein claimed at a meeting of the London Assembly Economic Development, Culture, Sport and Tourism (EDCST) Committee.
London's bid document to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) claimed that the stadium would be reduced from 80,000 to 25,000 after the Games and become an athletics venue.
But Baroness Ford, the chair of the Olympic Park Legacy Company (OPLC), told the EDCST Committee last month that the post-Games use of the Stadium is currently under review and options are being examined now that the stadium is a potential venue for the 2015 Rugby Union World Cup and the FIFA World Cup, if England are awarded the 2018 tournament.
To help it break-even the Olympic Stadium would also need to attract major music events, such as the series of sell-out concerts Coldplay staged at Wembley in September.
Bernstein, the former chairman of Manchester City and French Connection who took over from Michael Jeffries as chairman last year, did not believe the Olympic Stadium would be a threat to Wembley.
He said: "I doubt if the Olympic Stadium will compete in terms of hospitality.
"Ours is pretty unique.
"We have 7,500 to 8,000 quality seats.
"I think that will take a lot to compete with, and a capacity of 90,000 which is still probably the largest stadium in the country for the quality events."
Bernstein admitted it would take five years before Wembley stopped being a drain on the Football Association's finances.
Wembley, which cost nearly £800 million and seven years to rebuild, is already struggling to meet repayments on its loans and made a loss of £23 million last year.
Bernstein revealed that it faces up to 20 years of large interest payments but that it hoped to begin breaking even by 2014.
Dee Doocey, the chair of the EDCST Committee, said that it showed the OPLC, needed to investigate thoroughly the future of the Olympic Stadium before making any firm decisions.
She said: "Today's meeting suggests that there are not enough big events in London to sustain another 80,000-seater stadium.
"There are only around 40 large events in any one year, and Wembley currently hosts 35 of these.
"In view of this the Olympic Park Legacy Company would need a foolproof business plan before deciding to keep the Olympic stadium at 80,000."
Neale Coleman, the Mayor's director of London 2012 coordination, told the EDCST Committee that there is still no firm decision on the future of the Olympic Stadium but promised it would retain an athletics legacy.
He said: "They (the OPLC) want to keep their options open but the commitment to the IOC in terms of a permanent athletics option is not to be called into question."
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