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2012 Olympics could cripple temporary seating market

The London Olympics could cripple the UK’s temporary seating market if nothing is done to find permanent uses for the 2012 venues, suppliers warned this week.

Temporary seating contractors estimate that there are currently 120,000 – 130,000 seats in circulation around the country.

However, London 2012 will demand an additional 300,000 temporary seats – 110,000 incorporated into the designs of key Olympic venues, and the remainder used as part of a temporary Olympic overlay for events such as the beach volleyball at Horse Guards’ Parade.

Edwin Shirley Staging (ESS) business development director Jeff Burke said it was vital that
the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) found permanent uses for the proposed temporary Olympic venues if a nightmare scenario was to be avoided.

“In the short term, releasing that amount of product back into the marketplace would destroy it,” said Burke, whose firm is acting as temporary structures consultant to the Aquatics Centre design team of Zaha Hadid and Arup.

“The seats would trickle back into the market, somebody would be selling them cheaper than they should be sold and it would turn into a fire sale,” Burke added.

Arena Seating managing director Joe O’Neill added that there would be little chance of London 2012 taking advantage of the UK’s existing temporary seating capacity, as the market is always at maximum utilisation during the peak summer period between May and August.

However, both O’Neill and Burke agreed that this situation could be avoided if the ODA finds parties that are willing to take on London 2012’s temporary structures once the Games had finished as soon as possible.

“If there is early commercial engagement with sports clubs and local authorities from here and abroad, then from a design point of view the second use may then drive the design,” added Burke.

Burke said he was unaware of any end-users that have been signed up yet, despite the Aquatics Centre and Main Stadium progressing well in the design stage.

An ODA spokesman said: “We are currently finalising a strategy to procure temporary seating and, wherever possible, our intention is to hire rather than buy.

“Sporting and recreation use for temporary venues in legacy is currently being investigated and the seating strategy will take this into account,” the spokesperson added.

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