Athletics chief makes crucial intervention
Lamine Diack's comments on the future of the Olympic Stadium are the strongest and most significant intervention yet in the battle between West Ham and Tottenham.
The president of the International Association of Athletics Federations is the first to admit that English is not his strongest language. But no one involved in the process to select a legacy tenant for the £500m stadium can be in any doubt about what he believes after his interview with me earlier today.
Diack told me it was "unacceptable" that Britain was even discussing an option which did not include athletics at its heart. He added that the country's credibility would be "dead" if London reneged on its promise, given five years ago in Singapore, for the stadium to be retained as an athletics venue after the Games.
Just for the avoidance of any doubt, this is exactly what London said on page 23 of its bid book:
The 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games will provide an opportunity to deliver much needed sports infrastructure to the UK - and London in particular ... Specific plans for the facilities to be retained in the park include:
Olympic Stadium - conversion to a 25,000 seat multi-purpose venue with athletics at its core.
To be clear, neither West Ham or Tottenham will be offering to fulfil that promise when they submit their final plans to the Olympic Park Legacy Company on Friday.
Both clubs are bidding to rebuild the Olympic Stadium as a 60,000 seat football ground.
The crucial difference, in so far as the "Singapore promise" is concerned, is that West Ham will keep the Olympic running track, which would allow London to host a future World or European Athletics Championships.
They will also have the ability, they say, to reduce the capacity to 25,000 for smaller track and field events like an IAAF Diamond League meeting.
Tottenham will rip up the running track and instead fund a refurbishment of track and field's current home at Crystal Palace, which is in desperate need of investment and transport improvements.
At the centre of their argument is the belief that football and athletics will simply never be compatible in the same stadium. So, rather than crunch two sports together in an unhappy compromise, their option would give Spurs the new home they want at the same time as allowing athletics a permanent 25,000-seat stadium which could be expanded for major international events like the World Championships.
It is a dilemma for Baroness Margaret Ford, chairman of the OPLC, and her American chief executive Andy Altman, who are aiming to recommend a preferred bidder to their board next Friday. But the OPLC finds itself in a much happier position than it might have done when this process began.
Will Diack's comments make a difference to their deliberations? Probably not. Both Baroness Ford and Altman are not likely to be swayed by the noisy campaigns which have been mounted by both sides in the last two weeks.
Throughout this process they have made it clear they will make their choice based on five criteria - flexible usage of the stadium, a symbol of regeneration for London's east end, speed of redevelopment after the Games, commercial viability and value for money.
Diack says that the Olympic Stadium in Stratford should have athletics at its heart after the Games. Photo: Getty
Although each has equal weighting, there is no question the last two are more important than any promises to athletics made in Singapore.
But are Diack's remarks potentially embarrassing for those who made those promises? Yes. Do they matter for Britain's credibility? Yes again.
It's worth remembering that Diack was one of the key IOC voters targeted by London's bid team back in 2005.
A Francophone who studied in Paris, Diack was naturally thought to support their rival bid for 2012. London was already in his bad books after they scrapped plans in 2001 to stage the 2005 World Championships after money for a new stadium at Picketts Lock could not found.
He needed a great deal of persuasion to get the athletics lobby on board and, as he told me today, if he knew there was even a chance that those promises to his sport would not be kept, he and others from track and field would never have voted for London.
Some will argue that, while that is all very well, the IAAF has not come forward to pay the £5m it would cost to keep the stadium as a 25,000 athletics venue.
They can't afford it because, like it or not, athletics offers one event (a World Championships) which would fill a 60,000-seat stadium once every 20 years for a given country. Premier League football does that at least once a fortnight.
So, with the athletics-only option long since buried in the rubble of the Olympic Stadium construction site, what this decision boils down to is this:
Is it more important to take a risk on West Ham's offer, the majority of which is publicly financed, but which nevertheless allows London to keep a promise?
Or is it better to opt for the safer financial bet of Tottenham, which is privately funded, but which will see Britain and London lose face?