Wednesday, 6 July, 12.49: A moment that will leave an indelible mark on the city of London. Against the odds the UK’s capital won the right to host the 2012 Olympics. For bid leader Lord Coe, it was a personal triumph to match his two 1500 m Olympic gold medals and his 800 m world record. Paris had been considered the favourite, but London’s slick presentation and self-proclaimed status as Europe’s leading city carried enough force to breast the tape first. The construction industry has particular reason to be overjoyed: it stands to gain capital works worth £8.3bn. But how does this figure translate into actual projects? Mark Leftly answers the key questions
What work will there be for the construction industry?
It’s an £8.3bn bonanza. About £6.1bn of this will be spent on improving roads and railways. The Olympic Park, which includes the stadium, and the athletes’ village together come in at nearly £1.7bn. Some of this work would have happened anyway as part of wider regeneration plans.
Is there any danger of the industry running out of capacity?
Construction inflation could increase 1-2% in London and the South-east, according to cost consultant Davis Langdon. A number of other large projects in the surrounding area, such as Crossrail and the Thames Gateway expansion, will put pressure on contractors’ resources. Some argue, however, that if the work is available, then more firms will enter the market. James Bulley, London 2012’s director of infrastructure, told Building earlier this year: “The capacity of the construction industry is, in fact, greater than that of most previous host cities.” The completion of Wembley stadium and Heathrow Terminal 5 ahead of most of the Olympic construction programme should also free up contractors and workers.
When are the permanent venues and village due for construction?
- The £66m aquatics centre: December 2005 to December 2008
- The £254m Olympic stadium: July 2008 to February 2011
- The £24m handball arena: January 2009 to July 2011
- The £8.5m Broxbourne canoeing course: October 2006 to January 2008
- The £26m velodrome: July 2007 to December 2008
- The £7.5m BMX circuit: July 2007 to December 2008
- The £13m hockey centre: February 2010 to February 2011
- The £600,000 Regent’s Park softball centre: March 2011 to May 2011
- The £121m International broadcasting centre: February 2010 to August 2011
- The £590m Olympic village: June 2007 to December 2011.
When will the first tenders be issued?
The government is expected to invite expressions of interest for early works within weeks. First up are likely to be remediation contracts. The Stratford site has experienced everything from the Black Death to bombing during the Second World War. Initial research has identified contamination from gas works, mills and oil E
E refineries as areas of concern. Planning permission depends on cleaning up the land. David Stubbs, London 2012’s environmental project manager, says: “There is a raft of things that have to get going. No time can be lost.”
The LDA said in April that it would decide how to procure consultants for the detailed design of the park once London had been declared the winner. It has to decide whether to tender for groups of professions or separate the disciplines. In either guise, a team will be selected quickly: the contract starts on 1 August.
Who are the favourites to lead the work?
The Olympics will be delivered by the Olympic Delivery Authority – although it will need an act to be passed in parliament to allow this to happen. In the interim six to 12-month period a team within DCMS will get the ball rolling. An OJEU notice inviting bids from architects for the detailed design work on the Olympic stadium will be issued this month.
Two firms in a strong position to gain work are Laing O’Rourke, which is an official bid sponsor, and Mace, which carried out programme management for the bid. As Stanhope is developing the Stratford City site, its contractor partner Multiplex will be angling for work.
What will be the impact on infrastructure?
Nearly all of the transport upgrades would have gone ahead regardless of success and many are already under way. Hugh Sumner, Transport for London’s Olympic director, says bidding for the games has accelerated most schemes by a few years as it was the only way to ensure that the capital would be prepared if it won. As a consequence, London mayor Ken Livingstone was granted a £10bn, five-year infrastructure budget – which is an unprecedented injection into London’s roads and railways. Groundworks have already started on the £200m Docklands Light Railway extension to Woolwich, and funding is secured for the £1bn East London Line extension to West Croydon and Crystal Palace. Only relatively minor schemes, such as £5.6m of cycling routes and £28.1m of park-and-ride projects will be completed less than a year before the games. Sumner says: “It’s bizarre. The transport legacy of the games is happening now. In film terms you’d call it a prequel.”
What will happen at Stratford City and the Thames Gateway?
The £4bn megaproject to regenerate Stratford has been accelerated as a result of winning the games. The first phase, a retail centre and 500 new homes, was always due for construction between 2007 and 2010, but a further 2000 residences were only going to be built once the market was ready for them. David Joy, who is planning director at one of the schemes five co-developers, London & Continental Railways, says that this second phase will now be built by 2011, three to five years earlier than predicted. This is because it will be used as half of the 4000-unit athletes’ village, the remaining 2000 units being on adjoining land owned by the LDA.
After the games Stratford City will market its 2000 units, once they have been refitted. About 30% will be affordable, compared with 50% of the LDA’s 2000 units. The developers will have to phase the sale of the homes to ensure that prices are not dampened by oversupply. Hotels with up to 2000 beds will also be begin about five years ahead of schedule to accommodate the games.
As far as the Thames Gateway is concerned, Will McKee, chairman of regeneration specialist developer Tilfen, says: “It will be tremendous. The most successful regeneration projects have been done on the back of a major project. It will provide much improved infrastructure and transform the image of the gateway. People forget the importance of image on investment.”
The legacies of Olympics past
The London 2012 Olympic bid team is aware of the successful regeneration projects created by the past three games, but it must also beware some of their failures …
The Olympic stadium
The initial design is by Foreign Office Architects, and is the centrepiece of the 100 ha Olympic Park, masterplanned by EDAW. With a pricetag of more than £250m, the 80,000-seat stadium is unsurprisingly the most expensive sporting venue in the London bid. Construction is expected to be completed by early 2011, although some minor additional works will be necessary in the run-up to the games.
The Greeks have struggled to come up with the £4bn it still owes from hosting last year’s games. No city since Barcelona in 1992 has made money out of hosting, preferring to point to the long-term economic, regenerative and social benefits. Certainly Athens gained vital infrastructure, with a new airport and 120 km of new and improved roads, according to consultant Atkins. In the five years leading up to the games, it has also been estimated that the typical Athenian house price rose 62%, compared with 47% in the rest of the country. Not all the usual regeneration boosts have occurred, however – many of the 16,000 homes in the Olympic village are now due for demolition and reconstruction.
Many observers felt that this was one of the greatest games, both for the rich sporting entertainment and
the professional way it was run. The former is difficult
to deny, but there is a slight question mark over the latter. The stadiums the Olympics left behind are unused for much of the year, despite their huge maintenance and running costs. According to research by the Halifax bank, homeowners saw their residences gain in value, with the site of the Olympic village, Homebush Bay, rising 70% between 1995 and 2000, compared with 50% for Sydney as a whole. Homebush and the Olympic Park venues, though, remain underdeveloped, and form part of a rundown 25 km strip earmarked for the construction of 25,000 homes in May. e
Even if London had lost out to one of its rivals, the government promised to build the £26m velodrome. It is due to start construction in mid 2007, to finish by December the following year. Tenders inviting bids from architects to design the scheme are due to go out this month.
The aquatic centre
Again, Zaha Hadid’s curvilinear aquatic centre would have been built even if London hadn’t won. This is because the bid brought about a recognition that the UK lacks the 50 m, Olympic-size pools that swimmers need for training. Work on the £65m project will start in December this year.
Often thought of as the games where big business was the only real winner, Atlanta was used by Labour MP Graham Stringer as an example of why London should not bid for the 2012 event. In a 2003 House of Commons debate, he said: “Atlanta got little regeneration benefit; it has failed to provide basic facilities.” Perhaps the biggest symbol of profit over community cohesion was the £170m conversion of the Olympic stadium into the home of the Atlanta Braves baseball team, which was then owned by media mogul Ted Turner. However, a construction consultant on the project, Struever Bros Eccles & Rouse, argues this was
“a major catalyst in the city’s downtown resurgence”. Indeed, in nearby communities such as Summerhill, hundreds of new homes have replaced drug-infested enclaves. The regeneration legacy of a games, then, is not always clear.