Article - Issue 51, June 2012

Delivering the games

Sir John Armitt CBE FREng FICE

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The architect Zaha Hadid designed the Aquatics Centre. It is scheduled to host all swimming and diving events and will be opened for use by the local community and elite swimmers afterwards © London 2012

The architect Zaha Hadid designed the Aquatics Centre. It is scheduled to host all swimming and diving events and will be opened for use by the local community and elite swimmers afterwards © London 2012

Preparing the buildings, transport and security in time for the start of the London 2012 Olympic Games has been compared to building two Terminal 5s at Heathrow in half the time. It was the prominent civil engineer SirJohn Armitt who was chosen to chair the Olympic Delivery Authority and carry out the task. Here, he gives a personal view of how his team prepared and carried out the logistics for the Games, which open on Friday, 27 July

The London 2012 Olympic Games will be the third time London has hosted such a huge sporting event. The two previous occasions were in 1908 and 1948, but this is the first time that London has had to bid in competition with other cities.

The UK’s successful 550-page bid document set out how the Games would be delivered with plans for locations, finances and transportation – a particular concern of the International Olympic Committee. There were also plans for the Olympic Village and the development of the Olympic Park on the brownfield site known as the Stratford Lands in East London.

Staging the Olympic and Paralympic Games is described as the most complex logistical operation that a country has to organise outside of going to war. There are 205 competing nations, 17,000 athletes and officials, 26 different sports, with each competition the equivalent of a world championship, covered by 22,000 accredited journalists in London. There have been 8.8million tickets sold for the Olympic Games. Similar but lower figures are expected for the Paralympic Games, which will be returning to London after the inaugural Games at Stoke Mandeville in 1948.

Aerial view of the Olympic Park, November 2007 © London 2012

Aerial view of the Olympic Park, November 2007 © London 2012

Delivering the Games

The Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA), the body that I have chaired since 2007, was responsible for delivering the infrastructure, venues, Olympic Village and the transport infrastructure. It was also up to us to devise and implement effective transport plans all to time and cost, in a sustainable manner and to leave a lasting legacy.

In the first phase of the works on the Olympic Park, the London Development Agency (LDA), through its compulsory acquisition powers, assembled the Stratford site, handing the 600 acres to the ODA in July 2007. This allowed the second phase – of demolish, dig and design – to start.

Over a period of a year, the site was prepared, carrying out design to the point where design and build tenders were issued for the various venues and demolishing about 200 buildings.

By July 2008, as the Beijing Games commenced, we were able to start our third phase of the ‘Big Build’. This phase was to last three years, leaving a year for the fourth phase of testing in the run-up to the Games themselves, which are then followed by the transformation of the site for legacy use. Engineering works really commenced in the demolish, dig and design phase.

The Stratford site is surrounded by the Lea Navigation Canal to the west, the A12 to the north and by the East Anglia railway lines from Liverpool Street to the south and east. It is bisected by the River Lea and criss-crossed by other railway lines, predominately the North London Line and the Channel Tunnel Rail Link (HS1).

Across the Stratford site, 52 pylons supported National Grid power lines. An early part of the project was to construct two 6 km long tunnels 3 m in diameter and up to 30 m below the ground into which power lines were diverted. Then, by dismantling the pylons, the site was freed up for development. This work alone cost £300 million, was executed without significant problems and placed 130 km of cable underground.

Clean up commences

This part of Stratford had been used for hundreds of years for all sorts of industry: from farming to the manufacture of early plastics, such as Bakelite, to scrapping cars. It also had been used as a dumping ground for buildings demolished in the Second World War and was heavily contaminated with materials including heavy metals, petrocarbons, cyanide and lead.

Dealing with the contaminated soil presented an early challenge for our sustainability credentials. Traditionally, such soil would be dug up and transported to landfill and clean material imported. This, however, would have meant extensive lorry movements on the local roads and the use of raw materials, so it was decided to clean and recover the contaminated soil.

Two million tonnes were treated primarily by soil washing. The contaminants stick to the finest grains of soil, leaving a very fine cake-like material. At peak, we had 60 laboratory technicians measuring the cleaning process with hundreds of samples being taken every day. Finally, 95% of the soil was recovered with only 5% going to licensed landfill. The result was that we were able to reuse the material for backfill, drainage and embankments.

Of the 200 buildings left on the site which had to be demolished, 98% of the material was recovered for recycling, some of which was incorporated in the new construction. A redesign of the Greenway, a key walking and cycling route, used recycled materials including bricks, paving stones, cobbles, manhole covers, timber sleepers and tiles that were salvaged from the demolition and site clearance stages. Some of the buildings were dismantled and sold to overseas buyers. Reuse of 104,000 tonnes of recycled crushed concrete meant that new aggregate for the permanent works did not need to be brought in, saving £1 million and more than 20,000 lorry movements.

There was more rubbish in the river. The River Lea runs through the Olympic Park and clearly had the potential to be a key attraction. However, it is tidal and at low tide would reveal not only the mud banks, but the shopping trolleys and old bikes that had been dumped there. So another early project was the building of a navigable lock where the Lea enters the Thames. This enabled us to control water levels and essentially maintain high water through the Park, control flooding and at the same time dredge and clean the river through the Park.

The Olympic Park pumping station. Together with a new sewer network, the station will collect, convey and discharge waste from the main venues and buildings in the Olympic Park during the Games, and from the legacy venues and residential developments after 2012. John Lyall Architects won a New London Architecture award for the Pudding Mill Lane pumping station © London 2012

The Olympic Park pumping station. Together with a new sewer network, the station will collect, convey and discharge waste from the main venues and buildings in the Olympic Park during the Games, and from the legacy venues and residential developments after 2012. John Lyall Architects won a New London Architecture award for the Pudding Mill Lane pumping station © London 2012

Utilities installed

By July 2008, we were ready to start the Big Build phase of the project and construct the key structures and venues. A 2 km by 1.2 m diameter trunk sewage system, up to 18 m deep, has been installed, covering the width of the site. A pumping station lifts the sewage into the 19th century Bazalgette sewers which are on the southern edge of the Park.

Two interconnected energy centres have been built, one on the Olympic Park and the other at Stratford City. The first will provide power, heating and cooling across the Park’s 16 km of energy networks to the venues and buildings as well as the new communities that will develop after 2012.

The Park energy centre contains a biomass boiler that uses sustainably sourced woodchip as fuel to generate heat. Meanwhile, a natural gas combined heat and power plant – which captures heat generated by electricity production – will also serve the Park and surrounding communities during and after the Games. The plant will lead to carbon reductions of more than 1,000 tonnes a year. Cooling will be provided through a combination of electric, ammonia-based chillers and absorption chillers, which are driven by heat recovered from plant in the Energy Centre.

Extensive gas, electrical, communication and water networks have been laid in dedicated pathways across the site while most buildings operate a rainwater harvesting system with the water used for irrigation and urinal systems. An experimental black water treatment plant – the UK’s first – treats 570,000 litres a day. It is treated with screening, membrane filtration and colour-removal processes to provide non-potable water. There are a number of water-efficient installations in the Olympic Park, including low-flow taps, low-flush toilets, and waterless urinals.

The Olympic Stadium will have a capacity of 80,000 during the Games consisting of 25,000 permanent seats in the lower tier with room for a further 55,000 in a lightweight steel and concrete upper tier. It is located on an ‘island’ site, so called as it is surrounded by waterways on three sides, with spectators reaching the venue via five bridges © London 2012

The Olympic Stadium will have a capacity of 80,000 during the Games consisting of 25,000 permanent seats in the lower tier with room for a further 55,000 in a lightweight steel and concrete upper tier. It is located on an ‘island’ site, so called as it is surrounded by waterways on three sides, with spectators reaching the venue via five bridges © London 2012

Infrastructure and stadiums

There are extensive road and bridge networks intersecting the Olympic Park – about 35new bridges have had to be built. Most are composite steel concrete deck structures but many have been built in two parts. During the Games, pedestrian and vehicle flows will be much greater than in its legacy mode and, therefore, bridges have been built so that one part is designed for long-term use while the other part is of a more temporary nature and can be removed and recycled after the Games.

When it came to the stadiums, we faced a major challenge with the Olympic stadium. A capacity of 80,000 is required for the main ceremonies and for the major track and field events. For legacy use in the UK, only national football stadiums and a handful of major premiership clubs can utilise such a capacity. The existing Wembley Stadium could have been adopted but the security and transport required to move hundreds of athletes and officials across London was problematic, and separating the main stadium from the Olympic Park made it impracticable.

At the early stages of designing the new stadium, despite some interest, it was not possible to identify a committed long-term user of the stadium. We had promised the International Olympic Committee that part of the London legacy would be a new international-standard athletics stadium. However, international athletics meetings typically attract only between 15,000 and 20,000 spectators.

A decision was made in 2007 to build an 80,000-seat stadium for the Games which could be demounted after the Games to a 25,000-seat athletics facility, thereby reducing the risk of a post-Games white elephant (see box item, The Olympic Stadium).

The Aquatics Centre

The core legacy part of the aquatics building with a capacity for 2,500 spectators is increased during the Games to 17,500 with the addition of two large wings which will be removed after the Games. The centre consists of a 50 m competition pool, a 50 m warm-up pool and a dive pool.

The roof span covers the competition pool and dive pool; it spans 110 m and has an overall length of 160 m. The main beams are 11m deep at the centre and the steel roof structure weighs 3,000 tonnes. The fact that the two temporary wings are not airtight has been a significant challenge for the engineers in creating the very strict environmental conditions required for the Games.

To provide maximum flexibility of use in legacy, the floors of the pools can be raised to create various pool depths from 3 m to zero. Pool end booms can be moved to divide the 50 m pool into two for recreation use or for water polo.

After the Games, the two temporary wings which are clad in a phthalate-free PVC (developed by manufacturers specifically to meet the ODA specification) can be removed, recycled and full height and full length glass walls installed to create an iconic legacy design.

The distinctive exterior of the handball arena carries 3,000 m2 of copper cladding that has earned it the nickname of the ‘Copper Box’. In its legacy use, the venue will cater for a number of sports including basketball, handball, badminton, boxing, martial arts, netball, table tennis, wheelchair rugby and volleyball © London 2012

The distinctive exterior of the handball arena carries 3,000 m2 of copper cladding that has earned it the nickname of the ‘Copper Box’. In its legacy use, the venue will cater for a number of sports including basketball, handball, badminton, boxing, martial arts, netball, table tennis, wheelchair rugby and volleyball © London 2012

Other Park structures

The Velodrome is featured elsewhere in this issue of Ingenia. The other permanent venue on the Park is the 7,000-seat handball arena (since re-named Copper Box by LOCOG). A simple box structure has been built with a concourse level glass curtain wall, which brings in sunlight, while light pipes through the roof create a very bright natural light, thereby reducing energy needs, especially for its legacy use, when it will become a multi-sport community facility. The building of steel and precast concrete is clad in recycled copper sheeting which creates a variable visual appearance according to the
weather conditions.

The largest facility on the Park is the International Broadcasting Centre, 280 m long, 90 m wide and 30 m high, which will house the TV broadcasting studios. A temporary structure was considered but as it would have been two-thirds of the cost of a permanent building, it was decided to build a structure that was flexible for legacy use. The simple steel frame enclosing 50,000 m² was erected in nine weeks. The structure can be divided into three parts in order to provide flexibility for future occupiers.

Alongside this is the main press centre – a conventional office block for the print media. The media are also provided with a 1,500-space multi-storey precast concrete frame car park. During the Games, a large tented village will provide catering and other support facilities, from hairdressers to a post office, for the 22,000-strong media team.

Parklands

A core feature of the Olympic Park, to be known as the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park after the Games, is the River Lea and associated landscaping. Early design decisions were based around opening up the views of the river which were quite steep-sided and softening hard edges to create a variety of landscape styles through the Park. In essence, in the north of the Park the ground has been rolled back from the river to create undulating slopes which are accessible to all and which create a natural amphitheatre around the river.

The area is planted throughout with 2,000 mature, native species trees, such as oak, willow, aspen, and cherry. Thousands of wetland plants have also been placed alongside the river, which will be able to flood naturally into these areas.

The wildlife and habitats on the Park have been protected during the demolition and construction phases. An ecology management plan was developed which included transplanting 4,000 smooth newts, 100 toads and 300common lizards, as well as fish, including pikes and eels.

Sandmartin and kingfisher nests were created outside the Park and a programme of bird and bat surveys was carried out by ecologists on the site. A new wildlife habitat was created on Hackney Marshes to provide a home for insects, such as the toadflax brocade moth and species of solitary bees. Landscape and parkland area of 100 hectares has been created, important not only for the Games but for use to future visitors of the Park.

Dumped tyres were a frequent feature in the River Lea before the ODA cleaned up the waterways around Stratford © London 2012

Dumped tyres were a frequent feature in the River Lea before the ODA cleaned up the waterways around Stratford © London 2012

The Olympic Village

A central feature of every Olympic Park is the housing for athletes and officials. The Athletes’ Village consists of 2,818 apartments which will house 17, 000 athletes and officials. The apartments, which vary from one to four bedrooms, are specifically designed for legacy use and adapted for the Games primarily by not installing kitchens, which will create more bed space. The new kitchens will be retrofitted after the Games.

The apartments are 10-storey structures mostly built around a football pitch-sized landscaped quadrangle that sits at first floor level over a car park. Ten different architects ensured a variety of facade treatments around a consistent floor plate. The buildings are built to a BREAM level four specification ensuring low energy and water use, while 200 apartments are specifically designed for people with disabilities.

In legacy mode, roughly half of the apartments will be sold as affordable homes with the remainder available for rent or sale on the open market. The Village was originally planned to be built by a private sector developer and lent to LOCOG for the Games. However, the financial crisis of 2008 meant that funding was not available on sensible terms and too much risk would be left with the ODA. So it was decided to use our contingency monies together with other savings to fund the construction and then look to sell the village to recover the money. This has now been successfully achieved with the affordable homes bought by a housing association and the market homes by a private sector consortium. In addition to the housing, an 1,800-pupil academy has been built along with a polyclinic for serving the legacy population.

The Athletes’ Village apartments will be retrofitted after the Paralympic Games, and the area transformed into a new residential neighbourhood with a school, medical centre, parkland and public squares. Accommodation will range from studios to four-bedroom town houses and these will be for rent, shared ownership and private sale. The white building in the background is the Basketball Arena, a reuseable temporary structure that will be taken down after the Games © London 2012

The Athletes’ Village apartments will be retrofitted after the Paralympic Games, and the area transformed into a new residential neighbourhood with a school, medical centre, parkland and public squares. Accommodation will range from studios to four-bedroom town houses and these will be for rent, shared ownership and private sale. The white building in the background is the Basketball Arena, a reuseable temporary structure that will be taken down after the Games © London 2012

Extensive landscaping of the central open area of the Athletes’ Village includes the planning of a further 2,000 mature (up to 15 years old) trees and water courses that flow down to a wetlands bowl before feeding into the River Lea. A further 8,000 homes are planned for the Olympic Park during the next 20 years.

Transport

Transport is a vital aspect of any Olympic Games, highlighted at the Atlanta Games in 1996, when athletes missed their events because of transport problems. Transport is not only central to the athletes’ state of mind and preparation but also for the officials who move around between different venues, in addition to the hundreds of thousands of spectators travelling every day of the Games.

The whole transport operation has to take place while keeping London and the UK moving. In line with the city’s aim of hosting a ‘public transport’ Games the base planning assumption has been that 80% of spectators will choose rail as their preferred mode of travel. The remainder will travel by bus, coach, park and ride, water taxi and the most sustainable modes, those of walking and cycling.

The planning by the ODA of the transport requirements has had to recognise the 800,000 extra journeys likely to be taken, especially on the Underground. A normal day has in excess of three million journeys and the likely timing of those journeys has had to be taken into account relative to the start and finish times of the events.

The ODA has made an investment of almost £900 million in transport improvements, with a total of £6.5 billion spent by all bodies ahead of London 2012. These have included expansion of the circulation capacity of Stratford Regional Station, track layout changes to improve capacity, a new Docklands Light Railway (DLR) station adjacent to Stratford International and co-funding with Transport for London for the expansion of the whole DLR service by the addition of more carriages and longer platforms. Further co-financing of improvements to the North London Line, with Network Rail, has increased capacity by 45%.

Park and ride services will also operate around London, which, together with long distance coaches, will bring spectators to a special transport mall being built on the Hackney Marsh playing fields adjacent to the A12 at the north of the Park.

To sum up

The infrastructure for the 2012 Games has been delivered on or ahead of time and under budget. The principal reasons for this are that there has been cross-party political support, a fixed deadline, early attention to governance structures, a sensible budget, clear client leadership, a rigorous approach to programme control and change management, as well as strong assurance and risk management.

I am glad to report that the ODA has achieved a solid health and safety record. There have been in excess of 70million hours worked with an accident frequency rate of 0.17, well below the industry average.

As part of its legacy, the ODA has published, in conjunction with various professional organisations, about 300 separate papers which identify lessons learned from the delivery of this major programme. These can be found on a dedicated public website, at www.london2012.com/learninglegacy

With one month to go at the time of writing, the Opening and Closing Ceremonies have been planned and rehearsals are in progress. The broadcasters now have to install their studios, cameras and miles of cabling with 16,500 fixed telephones and 7,000 internet stations across 894 locations. In addition, 75,000 volunteers are being recruited and trained and 65 hectares of tents erected for retail, catering and back-of-house facilities. The security channels, similar to an airport, are being installed and temporary hired seating erected at locations such as Greenwich Park for the equestrian events, Eton Dorney for the rowing and Horse Guards Parade for beach volleyball.

Most of the ODA’s work has been completed and I am confident that next month London will be ready to host a truly unforgettable Games!

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