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Birthday blues

Analysis Olympics, Coal

Political interference has dogged the Olympic Delivery Authority's first year.

WHAT A first year. Since it was offi cially formed in April 2006, London 2012's Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) has seen its inaugural chairman Jack Lemley resign, its budget quadruple and been put in the awkward position of having to shortlist only one contractor for the flagship stadium.

When David Higgins became the ODA chief executive he would have known that transforming an east London wasteland into an Olympic Park would be far from straightforward - he had previous Olympic experience with the Sydney Games as chief executive of contractor Bovis Lend Lease. His last role as boss of the government's regeneration agency English Partnerships would also have given him some inkling of the challenge that lay ahead.

et fervent speculation about the total cost of building London's Olympic Park has overshadowed the positive messages Higgins and the ODA has tried to put out. It has certainly eroded some of the public goodwill towards the project.

Despite an outward message of partnership between the government, the ODA and London's Mayor Ken Livingstone, insiders have complained of progress being hampered by the politicisation of key decisions.

The most public criticism came from former ODA chairman Jack Lemley who, after stepping down, told the United States press that the Olympics was mired in local politics.

Those working on the main stadium with contractor Sir Robert McAlpine have also spoken privately of their growing frustration at the delay to the decision on the legacy use for the venue as the ODA lobbied for it to be retained as a an athletics venue while sports minister Richard Caborn and Livingstone argued for it to be handed to West Ham Football Club.

The decision for the stadium to remain an athletics venue was fi ally made in February, but the bickering delayed design work and the project is currently running two months behind schedule (NCE 2 April).

Despite these teething problems, ODA bosses proudly claimed the organisation has met all of its key targets when it celebrated its fi rst birthday on 4 April.

These cluded:

l appointing the consortium of CH2M Hill, Laing O'Rourke and Mace (CLM) to be its delivery partner l securing a compulsory purchase order for the land that will become the Olympic Park l Starting site clearance and site investigation on parts of the Olympic Park.

The undergrounding of power lines currently hanging across the Olympic Park is also running to schedule, with the last of four tunnel boring machines expected to break through next week (see News).

Capita Symonds is as acting a consultant for the ODA on remediation work and stakeholder management. The firm's managing director Jonathan Goring says that while he was sceptical of progress by the ODA and CLM six months ago, both teams are now successfully driving the project forward.

In fact, the only two areas of the ODA's remit running signifi ntly behind schedule are the two key venues: the main stadium and the aquatics centre. The latter was also the subject of political interference, with a government cost review delaying the project and reducing the venue's vast steel roof by 60% (NCE 30 November 2006).

Moving forward, the biggest challenge facing the ODA will be the remediation of the site, referred to by some as fithe cesspit of Londonfl. This will fully get under way in July following the completion of the compulsory purchase order process.

Although there is a degree of unpredictability in brownfi eld clean-ups, the ODA's fi rst year suggests that if the politicians can be kept out and the engineers left to get on with it, the organisation should be well able to achieve this and all of its key targets for the next 12 months.

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