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September 2005 – Steel to earn Olympic gold

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After the initial euphoria, some comment on London’s success in winning the right to stage the 2012 Olympics turned to focus on the threats, particularly construction projects being delivered late and/or over budget. Thankfully, the curmudgeons seem to have been seen off, but they will be back and the industry must be armed with the ammunition to see them off again.

That means ensuring that the best possible start is made to the design and construction of the infrastructure and arenas on whose success the whole venture depends. The best possible start has been made in many instances because the preferred material has already been chosen, and it is often steel.

The opportunities for showing what the steel sector can deliver are immense. Most of the Olympics-related work will be infrastructure and carried out in London, but not all of it.

The whole country can be said to benefit at least indirectly from the completion of key infrastructure projects that will be brought forward. But choosing steel has meant that the entire UK will benefit from Olympics-related investments.

Many communities far away from the hub of Olympics action will benefit from new sports facilities that can be easily transported after Olympic use from London, thanks to the demountable stand concept which is being used at venues like the 80,000 seat Olympic Stadium. This will heighten awareness of the flexibility of steel in general. This flexibility was a major driver of the design brief. It avoids the potential creation of a white elephant stadium which would have little use after the games, by allowing up to 45,000 of the seats to be re-erected elsewhere. London gains permanent 25,000 seat athletics stadium and a home for a major rugby club. The flexibility is such that about 20,000 seats could be added again for any special events.

The design for the steel framed Aquatics Centre has already been seen in NSC and is to be the first of the Olympic structures to be completed. Temporary grandstands will be removed after the games and water polo pools lifted out for use elsewhere.

Steel will also be used for the relocatable indoor handball arenas. Shortened construction times, reduced need for onsite labour and onsite quality control are other attractions reported by the designers of these and other steel structures.

Clearly, steel is set to be one of the best performers at these Olympic games. We look forward to reporting on the new records that steel will set.

Young designers take inspiration

The impact of the games on the UK’s younger generations could be immense in terms of inspiring young athletes to dedicate themselves to their sports. The legacy of facilities should help the UK’s athletes for many years to come. The impact on the country’s young architects and engineers will be no less significant, if the entries to two recent steel industry sponsored competitions are anything to judge by.

The Corus Undergraduate Architects Awards (click here to see feature) and the Undergraduate Engineering Design Awards (click here to see feature) each attracted a high number of high quality entries.

The engineers’ brief in the structural steelwork category was to design a tennis stadium for the Olympics and the winners responded with a visually striking entry with an innovative engineering solution. The architects designed a culturally adaptive public space for a city such as would be considered for hosting the Olympics.

Is the message about steel being communicated to the designers of tomorrow? Looking at these awards the answer has to be an emphatic yes.

Nick Barrett

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