The London Olympic Stadium will be the centrepiece of the 2012 Summer Olympics and Paralympics. The stadium is located at Marshgate Lane in Stratford in the Lower Lea Valley and has capacity for the Games of approximately 80,000 making it temporarily the third largest stadium in Britain behind Wembley Stadium and Twickenham Stadium. Land preparation for the stadium began in mid 2007, with the official construction start date on 22 May 2008, although piling works for the foundation unofficially began four weeks ahead of that date. Construction ended on 29 March 2011. The Stadium will host the 2017 World Championships in Athletics.
The stadium design was launched on 7 November 2007. The architect, Populous, is an architectural firm specializing in the design of sports facilities and convention centres, as well as planning of major special events.
As a “unique 80,000 seat stadium, it will be the centrepiece for the 2012 Games, hosting the opening and closing ceremonies and the athletics events, converting down to a 60,000 seat permanent stadium after the Games.
As of June 2009, the stadium’s track and field arena has been excavated out of the soft clay found on the site, around which permanent seating for 25,000 has been assembled, using concrete “rakers”. The natural slope of the land is incorporated into the design, with warm-up and changing areas being dug into a semi basement position at the lower end. A demountable lightweight steel and concrete upper tier has been built up from this “bowl” to accommodate a further 55,000 spectators, and is nearing completion.
Plastic, or perhaps an environmentally sustainable fabric, such as hemp, was initially expected to be wrapped around the stadium exterior and imprinted with a mural type design. The wrap would have been 20 metres (66 ft) high and would have encircled the 900-metre (1,000 yd) circumference of the stadium. Both hemp and the continuous wrapping were ruled out. The latest designs submitted for approval to the Olympic Delivery Authority suggest that rather than a continuous strip, the wrap will consist of 2.5 m wide fabric panels, twisted at 90 degree angles to allow entry to the stadium at the bottom of the structure, and held in place with tensioned cables. It has since been reported in the Guardian newspaper that a member of the stadium design team, Rod Sheard, would prefer the wrap to take the form of a continuous video screen, although no costing for this has been given. On 4 August 2011 it was announced that Dow Chemical Company would fund a wrap for the stadium, in return for being able to advertise on the wrap until 26 June 2012, at which point all advertising and logos would be removed. The wrap wil be made from polyester and polyethylene, be printed using UV curable links and would encircle the stadium. It is expected to be installed around the stadium in early 2012.
There will also be no food outlets inside the 80,000-seat arena, which reduces the need for kitchens and higher levels of fire protection associated with cooking. Instead, architects have planned party concourses outside the stadium inspired by the successful fan zones at the 2006 World Cup in Germany, where spectators gathered to eat and drink and watch the action on big screens. It has also been suggested that toilet areas known as “pods” could be created from recycled shipping containers with the water and sewage management self contained within, reducing the need for costly plumbing and facilitating the dismantling of the structure once in legacy mode.
The cable supported roof structure will cover approximately two thirds of the stadium’s seating. A six month study conducted by Olympic organisers found that while no roof at all could invalidate any potential world records set at the stadium, a partial roof reduced the chance of winds that can invalidate sprint and jump records from 50% to 5%. The roof will be made from a lightweight polymer based membrane.
The stadium site is on former industrial land between the Old River Lea (which rejoins the Navigation below Old Ford Lock), the City Mill River, and the Old Pudding Mill River; parts of the Bow Back Rivers. Another branch of this system, St Thomas’ Creek, 200 metres to the south, completes an “island” surrounded by water. Two hundred metres to the east is the Waterworks River; on the eastern bank will be the Aquatics Centre.
This “island” site for the stadium lies at the southern end of the Olympic Park. The existing waterways will be modified to surround the stadium, and access will be via several footbridges positioned around the building’s perimeter.
LOCOG publications and media reports have begun to refer to the site as Stadium Island due to the location and design—a name that may potentially define the site in years to come.
On 13 October 2006, LOCOG confirmed that it had selected the Team Stadium consortium (consisting of Sir Robert McAlpine; HOK Sport + Venue + Event, now known as Populous; and Buro Happold) to start negotiations with, in hope to find the contractor fulfilling the eventual design and build contract of the new Olympic Stadium.
The ODA received international and national interest to prequalify for the design and construction tender but Team Stadium was the only consortium to meet all prequalification criteria. The consortium was also the team who delivered the locally acclaimed new Emirates Stadium, home of Arsenal F.C. Team Stadium members have extensive experience in the design and build of sports venues, including the Olympic Stadium for the 2000 Sydney Games.
On October 11, 2011 Britain’s Olympics minister Hugh Robertson confirmed the collapse of the Olympic Park Legacy Company’s agreement with West Ham to take over the stadium after the games. The OPLC announced that negotiations with West Ham, unveiled as the preferred stadium bidder in February 2011, had ended because of growing concerns over delays caused by the ongoing legal dispute with rival club Tottenham Hotspur. West Ham had not signed any contracts, allowing the OPLC to abandon talks with the club. The stadium, which cost an estimated $760 million, will now remain in public ownership and leased out to an anchor tenant following a new tender process.
The stadium design received a mixed response from the media, with reviews ranging from “magnificent” to a “bowl of blancmange”.
The Olympic Stadium design was promoted as example of “sustainable development”, but some architecture critics have questioned both its aesthetic value and suitability as a national icon – especially when compared to Beijing National Stadium. For example, Ellis Woodman (Building Design’s architecture critic) said of the design:
“The principle of it being dismountable is most welcome… it demonstrates an obvious interest in establishing an economy of means and as such is the antithesis of the 2008 Olympic stadium in Beijing. But while that’s an achievement, it’s not an architectural achievement. In design terms what we’re looking at is pretty underwhelming.”
He went on to criticise the procurement and design processes – stating of the latter that it should have been subject to an architectural competition.
This view was echoed by Tom Dyckhoff, The Times’s architecture critic, who described the design as “tragically underwhelming” and commented that the “architecture of the 2008 and 2012 Olympics will, in years to come, be seen by historians as a “cunning indicator of the decline of the West and the rise of the East”.
Amanda Baillieu (Building Design magazine) challenges the designer’s claims that the stadium is environmentally sustainable and good value for money. Instead it is asserted that the reality will be the opposite. In particular, she claims that:
the temporary roof could not be reused to cover the permanent 25,000 seating area – given the difference in size;
it is unlikely that the removed seating would be wanted for any other event e.g. the Glasgow Commonwealth games; and
the costs involved in dismantling the stadium – and surrounding “pods” – has not been factored into the estimated cost.
The cost of £537 Million compared to cost of 1908 Olympics Stadium £60,000 (£5,629,148.93 adjusted with up to 2010 inflation rate).
Via Olympic Stadium