Prime minister and mayor meet building workers in site visit to Olympic Park

The prime minister and the London mayor went to watch building work begin on the Olympic stadium today, three months ahead of schedule.

Gordon Brown and Boris Johnson met with construction workers during their site visit, accompanied by Olympics minister Tessa Jowell. Also on site were the International Olympic Committee monitoring team, in the final day of a three-day visit to check on progress.

Construction of the £496m Olympic stadium, the centerpiece of the Olympic Park in Stratford, east London, was due to start in August, but the preliminary work of removing 800,000 tonnes of contaminated soil was completed early.

John Armitt, chairman of the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA), said: “Over the next year the Olympic stadium structure will begin to emerge from the ground. It is great news that we can make an early start but this is a project with an immovable deadline so we know there are big challenges ahead.”

In the first phase of construction of the 80,000-seat stadium, which will host the Games' opening and closing ceremonies as well as athletics events, 4,000 concrete piles are being driven into the ground.

Contractor Sir Robert McAlpine will then lay the floor slabs, lower-tier structures and the columns to support the pedestrian concourse level. Erection of the steel structure to support the roof will begin next year.

The stadium is intended to be converted to a 25,000-seat community venue after 2012 and may be used as the home of a football or rugby club.

Olympics minister Jowell said: “Starting work early on the stadium is a tremendous achievement and is a real indication of our progress, with all our major milestones met. I would like to congratulate the ODA and all the workers on site who have done fantastic job.”

Gordon Brown said: “I have no doubt that the construction of the new permanent venues, infrastructure and transport links within the largest new urban park to be created in Europe for 150 years will be a catalyst for lasting social and economic change in east London.”