What went into the construction of the London 2012 Olympic venues?

There is no doubt that the London 2012 Olympics represented a huge moment in British sport. The effort and resources that were required for the creation of the amenities to host the event were also something of a watershed in UK construction too. But what exactly went into the construction of the London 2012 Olympic venues?

A shaky start?

When the announcement came that London had won the bid to host the 2012 Olympics there were some worried faces. Not only were there concerns over whether the UK construction sector would actually be able to deliver the venues and infrastructure that such a huge event would require but could the city cope too? Among other issues was the potential for the London transport system to sink under all the weight of additional passengers. And then there was the venue chosen for the Olympic Park – at the time Stratford was effectively a forgotten part of London. The new construction could completely transform it – if the infrastructure in the area could cope.

Planning the park

Although there were a number of different options for the Olympic site itself the team opted for what would effectively be a new district built in a beautiful public park. A feasibility study of the site identified a range of issues, from the fact that it was overrun with Japanese Knotweed to the contamination of what was a former industrial area. Initially the budget was set at £2.3 billion but after extensive discussions with the Treasury this was eventually more realistically revised to £9.3 billion.

An ongoing process

Initially, a number of key venues were identified for construction, including the Olympic Stadium, an Aquatics Centre and a Velodrome. There were also lots of temporary venues that were originally planned for some of the sports but, in a very cost effective move, these were eventually accommodated in existing buildings. For example, Wembley Arena hosted the badminton and Earl’s Court the volleyball. Spending priorities continuously shifted but the focus remained on iconic construction that London could be proud of for the next 50 years. Perhaps one of the biggest challenges was the Athletes Village, which required 3,000 apartments to be built in two to three years.

The key construction

Although the Olympic Stadium, Velodrome and Aquatics Centre had been identified as the most important construction projects initially there were not enough bidders to make them happen. For example, the Olympic Stadium did not have enough bidders for a collaborative project and so was eventually awarded entirely to McAlpine. In what was viewed as a great construction success, the stadium was finished on time, on budget and became the iconic symbol of the games. Other challenges emerged from the design of the buildings, for example Zaha Hadid’s Aquatics Centre didn’t have a single straight line in its architecture. In the end changes had to be made – such as shrinking the roof – but even the Aquatics Centre was delivered a year before the Games were due to begin.

The success of London 2012 was a proud moment for London – and also for the UK construction sector. Despite delays and difficulties the effort and resources that went into designing and building the Olympic venues created somewhere for the sport to take centre stage without any of the drama Olympic construction has often entailed elsewhere.

Find out what other construction projects have inspired us at The RG Group, by taking a look at our blog.

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