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Anger as Olympic stadium procured without shortlist

News

CONSULTANTS have been left 'seething' at the UK Olympic Delivery Authority's (ODA) decision to scrap plans to shortlist bidders for the London 2012 main stadium.

They warned that the decision in October to hand the $462M design and construct job to the Arsenal Emirates stadium team of Sir Robert McAlpine, Buro Happold and HOK Sport robbed London of innovative design.

They warned that without competition there was a risk of serious cost inflation.

The ODA originally said it would shortlist three to six bidders for the stadium in September. The idea was that they would help it work out the design and scope of the project, with a successful team selected in January 2007.

But after a three-week delay in publishing this shortlist, the ODA moved straight to preferred bidder stage, claiming that only one of the bids met its prequalication criteria.

'The sad thing is that London has no choice on its stadium, ' said one design expert. 'There's no selection panel, no different taste. It's a dictated solution.' But ODA chief executive David Higgins defended the decision and brushed aside cost fears.

'We will be putting in place appropriate cost controls to ensure that budgets are managed properly and that value for money is achieved, ' he said.

From the winning bidders, HOK senior principal John Barrow also defended the decision and maintained that design innovation would not suffer.

'I don't think it will weaken or lessen design in any way, ' he said.

But many structural engineers and architects strongly condemned the decision. One unsuccessful bidder said the ODA's decision had seriously dented its credibility with the engineering and construction industry.

'This decision sets a dangerous precedent for the rest of the Olympic procurement process, ' he said. 'We have spent a lot of time and money going after this, and if the ODA already has a good idea of the firms they want on their projects, many companies will think 'why bother?' on future venues.' The brief for the stadium is to create an 80,000-seat venue for host track and field events and the opening and closing ceremonies. After the Games it will reduce in size to 25,000 as it becomes a venue for a variety of sporting, cultural and community events.

Other firms bidding to get on the shortlist included Arup with German contractor Alpine Bau Deutschland; Whitbybird with architect Ryder HKS and US contractor Hunt Construction Group; URS Corporation with architects Foster & Partners, Martha Schwartz, AFL Architects and project manager Gleeds. Architect Richard Rogers was bidding alone.

NCEI understands that even the ODA's delivery partner CLM is unhappy with the ODA's decision as it has now been denied the opportunity to have a significant say in who builds the stadium.

Consultants contacted by NCEI were also unanimous in their criticism of the ODA's stadium procurement process, in particular, its decision to appoint its Olympic Delivery Partner in parallel with the tender for the stadium construction contract.

The result, they said, was that major contractors involved in the bid for the delivery partner role ? Balfour Beatty, Bovis Lend Lease, Amec and eventually delivery partner winner Laing O'Rourke ? had effectively been ruled out of bidding for the stadium.

This decision made it difcult for big name stadium designers like SKM find a suitable contractor with which to bid, while others opted to bid for the design and build job without a contractor on board.

'The timing of the Delivery Partner appointment completely skewed the market, ' said one unsuccessful bidder.

The winning team was the only one with a British contractor and included HOK and Buro Happold, which had worked on the masterplan that underpinned the Olympic bid.

It was consequently considered the out and out favourite for the project.

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