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West Ham chosen as London stadium tenant

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LONDON (Reuters) -- West Ham United were chosen on Friday to inherit the London Olympic stadium after the 2012 Games, defeating a bid from Premier League soccer rivals Tottenham Hotspur.

The Olympic Park Legacy Company (OPLC) made a unanimous recommendation to back West Ham's plans over an audacious bid from Tottenham, who planned to remove the running track and knock down the 500 million pound ($800 million) stadium in favour of a purpose-built soccer ground on the site.

The authorities are keen to have a viable tenant to ensure that the stadium, centrepiece of the 9.3 billion pound Olympics, helps to regenerate the rundown area of east London, one of the poorest parts of the capital.

The OPLC decision, which must be rubber-stamped by London mayor Boris Johnson and the government, won strong endorsement from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and honours a commitment made when London was awarded the Games in 2005.

"The IOC welcomes the Olympic Park Legacy Company's decision which allows Games preparations to continue and paves the way for a great sporting legacy," the IOC said in a brief statement.

West Ham, who are bottom of the Premier League, will be making a short move from their current home at Upton Park.

Their plan would retain the athletics track inside the stadium, which would be reduced to a 60,000-seater in a 95 million pound project in partnership with the local council.

Karren Brady, vice chairman of West Ham, said: "Today is a momentous day. We are proud to have been passed the Olympic torch and fully embrace the responsibility we have for keeping the flame alive.

"We have been granted a once in a lifetime opportunity to grow our club. The nation has kept its promise and we will keep ours."

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Tottenham, backed by American entertainment giant AEG, argued that West Ham's plan to incorporate an athletics track inside a soccer stadium would be unsustainable.

They had planned to spend 300 million pounds on the stadium but their fans were unhappy about the prospect of uprooting from their home in White Hart Lane, north London.

Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp, who played for and managed West Ham, said his former club would miss the atmosphere of Upton Park, a typical British ground where fans are close to the action.

"I wouldn't want to watch football with an athletics track stuck around it. There's no atmosphere. I wouldn't want to watch football miles away from the pitch," he said.

In its official statement, Tottenham said it wanted West Ham to be asked to make a legal commitment to maintain the running track at the stadium.

"We shall continue to monitor the bid process over the coming weeks up until its final determination, whilst reviewing our position and holding discussions with our advisors," Tottenham said. The north London club had been reported to be considering a legal challenge to the decision.

Sports minister Hugh Robertson said he "sincerely hoped" that Tottenham would not follow through on that threat.

"I think people say things in the heat of battle," he told reporters. "It's quite a big step for a club to take a government to judicial review."