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The Globe and Mail

Antiseptic Olympic Stadium isn’t Premier League worthy

An overview of spectators watching the women's heptathlon 100m hurdles heat during the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium on Friday.


So they plan on playing Premier League games at Olympic Stadium? Not impressed with that notion, after my first day at the venue that is home to the opening and closing ceremony and athletics.

West Ham United is one of five groups bidding to purchase the stadium with eyes toward having it replace Upton Park. The thing is, the people in charge of the Games legacy for LOCOG have demanded that any new tenant/owner must keep the running track in place and that means there will be a lack of the type of intimacy most soccer fans desire.

After watching matches at St. James' Park in Newcastle and even quaint City of Coventry Stadium and then sitting in the upper level of Olympic Stadium, a visitor is left with the sense that it will take more than a reduction in the number of seats to make this a proper football venue. There is a strange, cold feeling to the place, as if designers found themselves halfway between building for size and building for comfort. It is antiseptic in a way that Beijing's Bird Nest – for all its construction flaws – wasn't. It's system of struts look very much like paper from a distance.

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Earlier this year, The Guardian had designers and architects tour the facility, and one of them – Amanda Levete – remarked: "Images of this building are going to be broadcast around the world. It doesn't hold the iconography of the moment. This was the building they needed to spend money on. They should have found the money to do it."

But what about the track? Will it be possible for a world-record time to be set in the 100 or 200 metres? Sprinter Dwain Chambers of Great Britain thinks so, as does Canadian sprinter Justyn Warner. Weather will be a factor of course – the stadium is ostensibly designed to mitigate against wind at track level – but given the speeds of Ryan Bailey and Justin Gatlin on Saturday when they laid down the two fastest first heat times in Olympics history, there might be a record or two hidden inside the otherwise soul-less venue.

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