London Stadium CEO Graham Gilmore tells Access about the busiest and most challenging summer season the venue team has experienced to date.

Before West Ham United’s Premier League football calendar returns in August, London Stadium is currently experiencing its most challenging transition period since opening in 2012.

After recently becoming ASM Global’s first UK stadium partner, the venue is hosting global music superstars such as The Weeknd and Burna Boy, while other events taking place such as Major League Baseball and Monster Jam have presented the stadium’s team with vast operational challenges.

“It’s been a massive challenge to my team and to everybody that’s helped us. I’d be surprised if there’s a stadium in the world that’s done the transitions that we’ve done this summer,” says CEO Graham Gilmore (pictured below with Burna Boy).

“We normally go from football straight into concert mode or baseball mode, which involves putting all the seats back, but we didn’t have the time because we had baseball coming in two weeks – so we had to do a hybrid version of our summer transition.

“We’ve never done a hybrid mode into concert mode, back to baseball and then back to concerts, because you have to take things out, put back and then take out again. This will be the most complex transition we’ve ever undertaken.”

The stadium’s summer calendar began with a momentous event on 3 June, when Nigerian singer Burna Boy became the first ever African artist to headline a UK stadium, featuring surprise appearances by Stormzy, Dave and Popcaan.

“We pulled some of the seats out at the stage and left pretty much everything else standing and built a super gangway for people to get off the pitch,” says Gilmore.

“The energy of [Burna Boy] was quite incredible. After the show I said he made history tonight, and he said to me, ‘no we made history’. When we said goodbye he put his hand on my shoulder and said ‘thanks for believing in me’. It was one of those career moments you’ll always remember. We didn’t quite know what we were going to get, but we had 55,000+ people from different generations and ethnicities having the time of their lives.”

Eighteen hours later, the stadium was completely cleared in preparation for the MLB London series, which runs from 24-25 June. Several hundred trucks have come to the venue to bring 1,500 tonne of aggregate to lay down for the astroturf, while clay has been brought from the US to make the diamond baseball field. The stadium is employing 350 people per day to work on the event, with 20,000sqm of flooring going in. The event brings $62 million to the UK economy and $45m to the London economy.

“We put ourselves on the map with Burna Boy and we’ve also done that with baseball. As a chief exec that’s my drive, to do things that everyone thinks is the unachievable. We’ll not say no to anything, we’ll try to work out how we can do it.”

Stadium improvements

Gilmore says the stadium has made “huge steps” to make it as competitive as it currently is. This includes changing the dismantling time of the West Stand from 15-20 to 7 days. The stadium has also added sensor-operated LED lighting back-of-house and is set to have multi-million-pound solar panels installed to generate its own energy.

On the ASM Global deal, Gilmore says, “It gives us an advantage over other stadiums to get big acts and events quicker than others. We have such a challenging window to operate in – once the football season finishes it takes us 10-14 days to get it prepped for other events. And then we’ve only got that short window of about eight weeks in June and July.

“My goal is to reduce the taxpayer’s contribution to this stadium because we have to get it running and working for itself and make it economically viable.”

After the MLB event, The Weeknd will play at London Stadium for two 80-000-capacity nights from 7-8 July as part of his world After Hours til Dawn Tour, followed by the return of Monster Jam on 15 July.

“It’s been a great success and is selling out fast,” says Gilmore on Monster Jam. “It put its toe in the water last year when we put it on sale late, but this year it’s really grabbed the imagination because they’ve brought out four new Marvel trucks.”

The stadium team will then clear up the running track to host world-class athletics at the venue for the first time in four years with London Athletics Meet on 23 July. It will also be a celebration for some returning medalists from the World Para Athletics Championships taking place in Paris the week before.

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Outside the stadium, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park will host Wing Fest on the island for around 7,500 people per day from 28-30 July, before West Ham’s home Premier League campaign kicks off on 19 August. The park will also host East London’s biggest community festival, the Great Get Together on 1 July. YouTube collective, The Sidemen, will play their hugely popular charity match in September, with the World Halal Food Festival returning to the island for its third event at the venue in the same month.

Also taking place at the 560-acre park is the return of UK Black Pride – the world’s largest pride celebration for LGBTQ+ people of African, Asian, Caribbean, Latin American and Middle Eastern descent, which takes place on 20 August.

The ground-breaking virtual concert residency ABBA Voyage will continue to be shown at the park until 2026, while new immersive comedy show Tony n’ Tina’s Wedding will take place at the top of the ArcelorMittal Orbit.

“To see how far the Park has come along since I first walked across it in 2015 is outstanding – there’s a great buzz around the place,” says Gilmore.