The contractor’s record at the Arsenal football ground makes it favourite to land the 2012 project, as tender documents are released

Senior management at contractor Sir Robert McAlpine was this week weighing up whether to bid for the London Olympic stadium, after the tender was released by the Olympic Delivery Authority.

McAlpine has emerged as the favourite to build the stadium, following its success in delivering the Arsenal Emirates stadium in north London with architect HOK Sport.

The two are understood to be pairing up again, along with consultant Buro Happold, to form a bidding consortium.

A senior source at the firm said it was still considering the bid and would make a decision after assessing the tender budget and contract conditions.

Other contractors that have emerged as frontrunners to bid include Laing O’ Rourke, Skanska and Taylor Woodrow. O’Rourke’s commitment will depend on if it secures the contract to act as the ODA’s delivery partner as part of the CLM consortium. This is expected to be revealed next month (see below).

Only a handful of architects are thought to be experienced enough to be in the running to design the landmark stadium. David Higgins, ODA chief executive, has made it clear any bidders must have a good track record in projects of this type.

He pledged not to repeat the mistakes of Wembley stadium. He singled out Arsenal stadium and Ascot racecourse, both by HOK Sport, as successful schemes.

Those considering the tender documents, as well as HOK Sport, include Foster and Partners, FOA and Arup. Olympic park masterplanner Allies and Morrison will not be bidding for the stadium but has expressed an interest in the Olympic village.

As yet it is unclear which architects will be teaming up with which contractors. Many architects had been waiting for the tender documents to come out before making a final decision because of uncertainty over whether the design and construction of the venues would be procured separately.

Now that the ODA has tendered the stadium as a design-and-build contract, requiring contractors to form a consortium of main architect, sports designer, structural engineer and services engineer, many are reassessing their options.

We are not setting a budget at this stage. We don’t want it to be a defining issue

David Higgins, ODA

Higgins has refused to make public a budget for the stadium or any of the other main venues, claiming the ODA does not want to be held to one figure before the initial designs are submitted.

He said: “We are not setting out a budget at this stage. We don’t want it to be a defining issue.” He added that there was, however, “a very clear internal budget” and that more details would be revealed in six weeks’ time.

In the original Olympic bid documents from 2004, the stadium is costed at £280m.

At the pre-qualification stage a cost consultant is not required. However, consultants EC Harris and Franklin + Andrews are in talks to join a consortium at a later stage while Bucknall Austin and Northcroft are considering entering the competition.

The brief involves designing a stadium that can morph from an 80,000-seat structure for the Games to a permanent 25,000-seat stadium. The ODA has not yet found a use for the legacy stadium, but it may become a national athletics venue.

Meanwhile, Higgins also set out the details of the delivery programme for the construction of the main venues within the Olympic Park (see graphic "Olympic park delivery programme").

He acknowledged that Zaha Hadid’s aquatics centre and the velopark had fallen behind schedule. He said: “Some dates have moved. This reflects our ongoing detailed planning and project management. It makes little strategic sense to have venues completed and vacant for several years before the Games.”

Higgins also acknowledged that delayed construction dates could push the budget up as materials and energy would cost more. He said: “We have to plan carefully to check we don’t test the construction industry too much.” Some senior industry insiders have suggested the cost of the stadium could rise to £400m.

Within the next 12 months the Olympic village and media centre will also come to the market and procurement for a contractor on the aquatics centre will begin. The process of the procurement partner for the village has begun but designers must be appointed.