The Battle for the Olympic Stadium
Tottenham Hotspur and West Ham United are preparing to deliver into the hands of the Olympic Park Legacy Company (OPLC)the final details of their rival offers to take over the Olympic stadium after 2012.
Much of what the two Premier League clubs are proposing has been kept confidential, including the potentially pivotal details of the financial dividend for the public purse should they be chosen as tenants. But they have to satisfy five criteria laid down by the OPLC at the start of this process:
1. To achieve a viable long-term solution for the Olympic Stadium that is deliverable and provides value for money;
2. To secure a partner with the capability to deliver and operate a legacy solution for a venue of the stadium's size and complexity;
3. To re-open the stadium for operational use as rapidly as possible once the 2012 Games have finished;
4. To ensure that the stadium remains a distinctive physical symbol supporting the economic, physical and social regeneration of the surrounding area;
5. To allow flexible usage of the stadium, accommodating a vibrant programme of events that allows year-round access for schools, the local community, the wider public and elite sport.
Along with those criteria, a prerequisite for making the shortlist was to satisfy the demand for "a stadium solution that supports the intent of the London 2012 bid commitments for athletics, or proposes a credible alternative".
It is on this point that the proposals of both West Ham and Spurs fundamentally divide.
West Ham will keep the running track, retaining the possibility for the stadium to be used as the centrepiece of an anticipated bid for the World Athletics Championships in 2017.
Tottenham's interpretation of the "credible alternative" is to get rid of the track at the stadium and instead propose a substantial refurbishment of the National Sports Centre at Crystal Palace, home of London's international athletics events. As almost everyone will have now noticed, the proposal is proving to be highly controversial. It is the elephant in the sitting room but let's just ignore it for a moment.
Whatever the board of the OPLC decides, the Olympic Stadium will not become just another large football venue, animated only once a fortnight for home games, with the occasional bit of public access to the club's trophy room or museum. It must be at the heart of the local community and have ready a "vibrant programme of events".
Spurs have bid partners AEG to bring their expertise to bear on the events side. Running entertainment arena The O2 certainly ought to mean that AEG are well up to speed. West Ham have involved Live Nation, who are equally credible concert and event specialists.
West Ham and Spurs will reduce the capacity of the stadium from 80,000 once the Games are over. Photo: Getty Images
Both clubs will modify the stadium, reducing its 80,000 capacity at Games-time to 60,000 and making the changes they need to better fit the profile of a football ground, including such vital revenue generators as corporate entertainment areas.
What they spend on that is their own prerogative but they will have to convince the OPLC that they have got the money and can pay the rent as long-term anchor tenants.
There will be £35m available from the Olympic Delivery Authority's budget for the site, set aside for the legacy use refurbishment of the stadium. Both West Ham and Spurs would be expected to take advantage of that money - West Ham as part of their plans at the Olympic Park, Spurs to spruce up Crystal Palace.
Both will have to demonstrate a multi-sport capability. West Ham have been talking to Essex County Cricket Club as part of their plans to satisfy that requirement, with an eye on Twenty20.
So, back to the athletics legacy.
For each bid, satisfying that demand requires a compromise.
For West Ham, it means accepting that the stadium is not configured exclusively with football in mind - and that means there is an impact on sightlines, atmosphere and the fan experience. That is a compromise the club will bear and is asking its fans to accept.
For Spurs, it is others who must be prepared to accept compromise. There has been a disorderly queue of people keen to say that scrapping the Olympic Stadium track is not what was promised in 2005. The debate has become increasingly heated.
What counts is the decision of the OPLC, which has said alternatives can be considered.
A complication for Spurs has arisen in the last few days in the shape of Crystal Palace Football Club, who have announced their ambition to return to the site that gave them their name.
The significance of this development is being dismissed by sources close to Spurs but it adds another element to the already difficult decision-making process.
Once Spurs and West Ham have made their final submissions, OPLC chief executive Andrew Altman faces a long weekend of deliberation. He and Baroness Ford, the OPLC chairwoman, will then make their recommendation to the OLPC board.
If the board are happy, that positive feeling cascades down to the two major stakeholders: the Government and the London Mayor's office, who have the final say.
What is clear is that whichever way this falls, one party will very disappointed, possibly even prepared to mount a legal challenge.
The OPLC will have to be confident its decision will stand up to scrutiny, especially from the Government's audit committee, for whom value for money overrides all other more emotive considerations in these difficult economic times.