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September 2010 – An Olympic model for the future

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The London Olympic Games are still two years away but already the Olympic Delivery Authority is more confident than any modern Olympics organisers have ever been that all of the facilities will be ready on time and without any major last minute rush. The construction process isn’t quite over but the main venue structures have been erected in good time and are heading for handover in 2011, with a year to spare before the opening ceremony on 27 July 2012.

Many predicted that inevitable problems with project delivery on what would become Europe’s biggest construction site would mean rapidly escalating costs and nail bitingly close finishes. This has not happened.

It is hard to imagine this timetable having been achieved without the extensive use of steel for framing the structures. Steel has been the material of choice for most of the venues for a host of reasons. Offsite fabrication has been a major boon for the construction programme.  Price and speed have definitely been at the forefront of a cost conscious delivery authority, but another major benefit of steel is being seen now as the Olympic Park Legacy Company, which is charged with overseeing transformation of the Olympic Park for the benefit of local communities after the games, starts to look for a post-Olympics use for the main stadium.

The Legacy Company is inviting bids for the right to lease the stadium – framed with 10,000 tonnes of steel, the lightest Olympic stadium ever  – on a long term commercial lease. Over 100 expressions of interest were received in the first couple of days. One reason why there have been so many interested is no doubt because of the flexibility of the stadium. It could be put to many different uses as its design and construction were undertaken specifically with a view to allowing it to be demounted if need be, allowing a stadium of as little as 25,000 seats to be created from the 80,000 seat original, with the unwanted seats taken away and used elsewhere, perhaps in creation of another stadium.

This is the first time that a host city has prioritised what happens after an Olympics to the new venues and other infrastructure so far ahead of the games themselves. The goal is not only to avoid the white elephants that previous Olympic Games have been accused of creating, but regeneration of a sizeable part of London.

London’s stadium is already being hailed as a model for future Olympic stadiums; steel construction has proven to be a model for any project where cost, speed and quality are paramount.

Nick Barrett

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