Are we expecting too much of the 2012 Olympics?
We want it to catalyse the regeneration of east London. We want it to train and employ thousands of locals. We want an Olympic village that will double as aspirational flats. And we want the Games to set standards for the construction industry in health and safety, cash flow and sustainability. Set against this, the ODA has the Treasury breathing down its neck, an immovable deadline and a team that must have been unsettled by the departure of Jack Lemley, announced as we went to press. The chances are, someone’s going to be disappointed.
Well, someone’s already feeling let down. That’s Lord Rogers and the design review team, who are concerned that delivery is elbowing out design. The row over Zaha Hadid’s aquatic centre may have planted this notion, and but the appointment of Sir Robert McAlpine–HOK–Buro Happold team as preferred bidder for the stadium is likely to bring the matter to a head.
Rogers would no doubt argue that as the centrepiece of the Olympics, the stadium should show the world what we’re capable of. In an ideal world, yes. But the ODA has plumped for a ready-made team that has proved it can deliver a good stadium on time and to budget. And in any case, an 80,000-seat stadium is unlikely to be a permanent fixture in the Lea Valley, so the likelihood is that it will collapse into a 25,000-seat athletics stadium after the Games. The key to the design will therefore be in its engineering rather than its architecture. And let’s not forget that in the wake of the Wembley fiasco all the big contractors but McAlpine shunned involvement. And even it could still walk away.
If the Olympics were totally governed by practicalities that would be real shame, But if the ODA gives us some architectural gems, such as the aquatics centre, the velodrome and the media centre, then we should allow ourselves to relax, put the kettle on and enjoy the greatest athletics spectacle on the planet.
A little less conversation …
This week is the first birthday of our Reform the Regs campaign (pages 40-42). The aim was to persuade the government to declare a moratorium on new regulation, to appoint a Whitehall champion to co-ordinate regulation and to set out a timetable for further changes. After a period of consultation, we came up with a manifesto, and to its credit, the government listened. Last Christmas, the ODPM committed itself to reform. Now the government must turn the talk into action and make a difference. The industry will be watching closely.
Denise Chevin, editor