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Athens stadium still unfinished a week before Olympics

STEEL ERECTION delays and last minute mechanical and electrical changes meant that contractors were still rushing to complete Athens' Olympic Stadium this week, days before the August 13 opening ceremony.

Eight days before the start of the Athens 2004 Olympics, mechanical and electrical equipment is still being installed in the stadium roof while opening ceremony rehearsals take place below.

Main contractor Aktor blamed the late rush to complete the stadium on late design changes and last minute additions to work.

The main stadium north of Athens was built in 1996 but has been refurbished for the 2004 Olympic Games.

Contractors have also added an 80m high tubular steel roof designed by engineer-architect Santiago Calatrava.

All structural work is complete, but the area around the stadium was still being landscaped and paved when NCE visited the site last week.

The steel arch canopies were constructed on piers 70m away from the old stadium and slid into position last June using hydraulic jacks (NCE 1 May 2004).

Construction of the roof was held up last year after Calatrava decided that 30% more steel was needed to beef up the 304m tubular arches running the length of the stadium.

Italian steelwork contractor Cimolai said the increase was needed because the upper 'arch' tube diameter changed from 2.5m to 3.25m and the lower 'torsion' tube changed from 3m to 3.6m diameter.

'This makes a big difference over 300m, ' said Cimolai managing director Luigi Cimolai.

He added that such changes were not unusual, despite the impact on programme.

But the time taken to beef up foundations and support structures to carry the roof ate heavily into the construction programme.

Delays to the steelwork had a knock on effect on minor works packages in and around the stadium. There was a 100m exclusion zone for work on the ground near the steel arches until they had been installed.

As a result, delays to the steelwork meant Aktor had to amalgamate several minor works packages.

'Because there wasn't enough time to mobilise separate contractors on site for other work, we took the water, sewer, electrical and power contracts for the whole Olympic stadium site, ' said Aktor assistant project manager Constantinos Papadimas.

'And the contracts were divided up badly. So we had to reassess scheme constantly, ' he added.

Delays to the steelwork also meant Aktor had to fast-track installation of glazing panels within the roof structure.

As a result some of this was put in ahead of the operation to slide the two halves of the roof into place in June (NCE 1 May).

In the end, 25,000m 2 of 1m by 5m long 12mm thick panels were installed in just three months.

Aktor had to hire more labour to get the job done more quickly.

And there were unexpected late additions to Aktor's workload.

Some of this extra work came as late as two months ago as the Athens 2004 organising committee finalised the stadium fit-out programme.

'We only got the order to install 80,000 seats and paint the whole stadium two months ago, ' added Papadimas.

It was only five months ago that Aktor was given contracts to build eight conference suites, roof mounted lighting cradles and grandstand mounted lighting and sound gantries.

Other late additions include three television control rooms supported on 8m high structures and steel frames for the video walls and scoreboards.

Lois Jacobs, president of the opening ceremony organising company Jack Morton Worldwide, said that work to install lighting and cabling would continue right up until the August 13 opening ceremony 'as with all theatrical productions'.

Extra work ate up almost all the contingency time allowed in the stadium programme.

Late changes

Other Olympic changes:

Engineer-architect Calatrava wanted a 100m tall spike built next to the main stadium. But according to Aktor assistant project manager Constantinos Papadimas 'no one could construct it', so Calatrava settled for a 60m to70m, high jet of water.

The swimming pool roof was scrapped last March over fears it would not be completed in time (NCE 25 March).

The velodrome roof, based on the design of a cycling helmet, was also designed by Calatrava but required 18% more steel because extra stiffeners were required.

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