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* Newham interested in aquatics, handball venues

* Organisers say good response from potential bidders (Adds OPLC response, details)

The London borough of Newham added its name on Monday to a list of potential bidders to take over the costly and controversial 2012 Olympic aquatics centre after the Games.

Newham mayor Robin Wales told Reuters that the council would be seeking partners after submitting a formal expression of interest to the Olympic Park Legacy Company (OPLC) for the facility and the multi-use handball arena.

However, he said his borough, one of the poorest in London, would want government money to pay maintenance costs and could not rule out the need for major structural changes, including to the wave-like roof.

Newham has already teamed up with Premier League soccer club West Ham United to take over the Olympic Stadium after the Games while retaining the athletics track. Most of the Olympic Park in east London falls inside the council's boundaries.

"We have put an expression of interest in...we are very concerned about the maintenance. This is going to be something which is going to cost money, not make money," said Wales of the aquatics centre.

"Where the stadium will over time not be a drain on public funds, and in fact will make us money, the aquatics is a very different beast.

"But we can see there might be a synergy with the stadium and we are just going to look at that."

The deadline for expressions of interest was last week and the OPLC said 35 organisations had taken part in the process.

"We are evaluating the submissions in order to create a shortlist in the coming weeks. We aim to appoint operators by January 2012," a spokesperson said.


Designed by Iraqi-born architect Zaha Hadid, the aquatics centre is the most striking of the venues in east London but also one of the least attractive for potential operators.

Wales said the building, whose cost was originally estimated at 75 million pounds ($120.1 million) but now stands at 268 million, was flawed.

"It's got a wooden roof over a chlorinated pool. We are not in the business of protecting that," he said.

"Why do you build something that has got a built-in problem with maintenance? This is foolish," he said.

"If a council did that we'd get eviscerated. And quite rightly too.

"I don't know if you can take the roof off, I'm not a swimming pool designer," said the elected mayor, who is also on the board of organisers LOCOG. "Mind you, I always wanted a lido in Newham."

Wales said Newham's interest was in providing a recreational facility for locals after the Games and had offered at an early stage to pay five million pounds towards a leisure pool being incorporated in the design.

"The trouble is the roof slopes in such a way that you can't get slides in. You can't use it," he said.

"We have consistently stuck to our position which is that we want to use it in legacy, we were willing to put money in to use it in legacy so the community can also be part of it.

"That was not what was wanted at the time it was designed and therefore...there's an implication for that and people are going to have to face up to it."

Wales said the copper-clad handball venue was of interest only for potential synergies with the Olympic stadium.

"It's not in our borough and we are more twitchy about that," he said.

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