LONDON — Critics howled of a betrayal of Olympic proportions. Politicians, sports leaders and athletes vented their views daily in newspapers and on radio, television and Twitter. Organizers ducked to stay out of the crossfire.
Even before the main stadium for the 2012 London Games has been completed, it is provoking an increasingly fierce debate over what should happen to the showpiece venue after the Olympic flame has been extinguished and the five-ring festival has left town.
At stake is the fate of the $853 million, 80,000-seat Olympic Stadium that will host the opening and closing ceremonies and the track and field competition in 2012.
Stoking the most controversy is a proposal by the Tottenham soccer team — one of two potential tenants — to tear down the stadium after the games and rebuild another arena on the site without a running track.
The issue cuts to the heart of Olympic organizers' pledges to leave a lasting legacy — and no white elephants — from Britain's biggest peacetime project.
"Our credibility is on the line," said Craig Reedie, Britain's executive board member on the International Olympic Committee.
The towering stadium is nearing completion in the Olympic Park, a 500-acre site carved out of a run-down industrial area in east London and turned into the flagship complex for the games. The arena is scheduled to be finished this summer.
When London was awarded the Olympics in Singapore in 2005, the bid team — led by running great Sebastian Coe — promised the IOC the stadium would leave a post-games future for his sport.
"The stadium will be a purpose-built home for athletics for generations to come," former Olympics Minister Tessa Jowell told the IOC at the time.
The pledge was considered a key element in London's victory over Paris, which had an existing main stadium with a track.