Engineers working on the main 2012 Olympic stadium this week admitted that design is being held up by difficulties in planning the transition from an 80,000 to a 25,000 capacity venue after the Games.
Detailed design for the stadium is running two months behind schedule. According to the Olympic Delivery Authority's original timetable this should have been finalised in February (NCE 7 December 2006).'Certainly the transition after the Games is a big issue to solve,' said lead designer on the project HOK Sport senior principal Rod Sheard.'I guess it's easy for everyone to forget that the ODA is trying to do brief formulation and initial ideas in six months rather than the 18 months we had on Wembley and Ascot, and about 15 months on the Arsenal Emirates Stadium.'As preferred bidder to build the stadium, contractor Sir Robert McAlpine and its design team of HOK Sport and Buro Happold must submit detailed plans to the ODA for an 80,000-seater athletics stadium, of which only 25,000 seats will be permanent.The main sticking point for the design team has been how to deliver this large temporary element for the 2012 Games, and how to do so within budget. 'There has never been a stadium with a temporary element on this scale before,' said one source close to the project.As well as the challenging design, progress on the key venue was also held up earlier this year as the Olympic Board deliberated over the long-term future use of the stadium. The board, whose members include culture secretary Tessa Jowell and London mayor Ken Livingstone, only decided in February that the stadium would be used for athletics rather than by West Ham Football Club after the Games.An ODA spokesman said: 'The agreement from the Olympic Board on the legacy plans was a key achievement that has allowed us to move to the next stage of planning. Obviously meeting the requirements of both Games and Legacy modes, and reducing the seating from 80,000 to 25,000 makes the stadium a unique design and engineering challenge. But detailed planning is vital at this stage and will help avoid potential issues occurring later in the project. Overall we are on track and will be able to share designs soon.'