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Construction starts two months early on London 2012 Aquatics Centre

Construction got underway yesterday on the Zaha Hadid designed London 2012 Aquatics Centre, two month earlier than scheduled.

Work has started on the foundations of the venue which will form a stunning ‘Gateway to the Games’ in 2012, and in legacy will provide world-class swimming facilities that London does not currently have.

The ODA also announced that it had delivered virtually all, and exceeded some, of its ‘dig, demolish, design: milestones to Beijing’ and set out its next set of milestones for the year ahead, ‘the big build: foundations’.

The milestones hit by the ODA in the past year include:

- 192 buildings demolished
- over one million cubic metres of soil excavated to shape the park
- two six kilometre tunnels and 200km of cabling complete
- contractors appointed to build the ‘Big Four’ Olympic Park venues and design work well-advanced
- construction started on the Olympic Stadium three months ahead of schedule
- construction started two months early on Aquatics Centre
- construction started on the Olympic Village.

The ODA did admit, however, that due to the wider economic climate it has taken longer than anticipated to agree financing of the Olympic Village development.

It also added that due to contamination on the original site, construction work on the Broxbourne White Water Canoe Centre was delayed while a new site was secured and that while the treatment of contaminated soil on the Olympic Park is slightly behind schedule, the construction programme is unaffected.

ODA chairman John Armitt said: "Last April the ODA set out a series of challenging milestones we were aiming to achieve on the project by this summer, so that the public could judge the progress we are making.

'We have hit these deadlines in virtually every regard and exceeded them in some cases. We have started construction early on both the Olympic Stadium and the Aquatics Centre, which will form a fantastic gateway to the Games and provide permanent world-class swimming and diving facilities for the capital. Work is also underway on the Olympic Village.

"Today we are publishing 10 new milestones - ‘the big build: foundations’ - that we plan to achieve by 27 July 2009, just three years away from the London 2012 Olympic Games Opening Ceremony. We have made a very solid start though realise that tough challenges will lie ahead."

Sebastian Coe, chair of the London 2012 Organising Committee said: "It is important that London 2012 meets all major milestones and this demonstrates that we are making good progress. I am delighted that work is starting early on the Aquatics Centre. This is a major venue on the Olympic Park, which will provide London and the south east with much needed world class swimming and diving facilities for both elite athletes and for community usage after the Games.

"This is the year that construction starts in earnest on the Olympic Park and it is a fantastic sight to see. In four years time London will have a world class Aquatics Centre, a state of the art VeloPark and a new Athletics Stadium. These facilities will be at the heart of a wonderful summer of sport in 2012 and for elite and community use for many generations. I hope that this will inspire more people to take up sport and that it will lead to more British medal successes in the years to come."

Mayor of London Boris Johnson said: "Just a few weeks after work started on the Stadium, London and the UK can be proud that we have hit another milestone well ahead of schedule. In the coming months and years, we will see a spectacular Olympic Park rise from the ground, culminating in 2012 when the world will witness the most spectacular celebration of sporting achievement in our wonderful capital city."

Milestones for the year ahead include the removal of 52 pylons currently scarring the site as power switches underground, the completion of the Olympic Stadium and Aquatics Centre foundations, the completion of the works at the Weymouth and Portland sailing venue and work underway on the foundations of the VeloPark and International Broadcast Centre/Main Press Centre.

A full list of the new milestones - ‘big build: foundations’ is in a downloadable document on

Aquatics Centre key facts:

The Zaha Hadid designed Aquatics Centre is located in the south of the Olympic Park and will be the main ‘Gateway into the Games’, hosting Swimming, Diving, Synchronised Swimming, Water Polo finals and the swimming discipline of the Modern Pentathlon.

The Aquatics Centre will have a capacity of 17,500 during the Games, reducing to a maximum of 2,500 in legacy, with the ability to add 1000 for major events, and provide two 50m swimming pools, a diving pool and dry diving area - facilities that London does not have at present.

Eleven industrial buildings have been demolished on the 55,000 square metre site.

Around 130,000 tonnes of soil have been dug out on of what was one of the more challenging and complex areas of the Olympic Park contaminated with pollutants including petrol, oil, tar, solvents and heavy metals such as arsenic and lead.

Four skeletons were discovered and removed from a prehistoric settlement discovered on the site of the Aquatic Centre.

140,000 tonnes of clean soil has been brought from other areas of the Olympic Park to prepare for construction to start.

Planning permission has been achieved and Balfour Beatty has recently been appointed to build the Aquatics Centre and huge land-bridge that forms the roof of the training pool and the main pedestrian access to the Olympic Park. Construction work will be complete in 2011 for test events ahead of the Games.

The sweeping roof, which is 160m long and 95m at its widest point, is an innovative 2800 tonne steel structure with a riking and robust aluminium covering resting on three supports just 1m squared.

The design team is currently considering different types of timber cladding for the internal ceiling of the venue and the sides of the roof supports. The timber selected will be tested over the next twelve months to ensure it works both for the Games and in legacy before installation in 2010.

The budget for the Aquatics Centre is £242m and the budget for the land-bridge that will also form part of the roof of the venue is £61m. The total of £303m has not changed and is within the ODA’s Baseline Budget as announced by the DCMS last December.

‘Dig, demolish, design: milestones hit

Milestone 01: the majority of the Olympic Park will be cleared and cleaned. Over 90 per cent of the 220 buildings demolished, over one million cubic metres soil excavated to shape the park, 50 per cent of contaminated soil dug out ready for treatment, 80 per cent of Japanese knotweed cleared and main venue sites handed over to construction contractors on or ahead of schedule.

Treatment of contaminated soil is slightly behind schedule although this does not affect the overall programme of work.

Milestone 02: with the tunnels and cabling complete, the power for the Olympic Park will be set to switch underground. Two six kilometres tunnels and 200km of underground cabling are complete with power set to switch underground this autumn so that 52 electricity pylons can be removed.

Milestone 03: the main temporary roads and bridges will have been built, giving access to a safe and secure construction site for the ‘big build’. Four temporary bridges built and a fifth underway, temporary roads created across the site, site accessible by rail for materials, two entrance plazas and internal bussing service for workers as well as welfare facilities, offices and site medical service.

Milestone 04: the installation of new water and energy systems that will serve the Olympic Park during and after the London 2012 Games will have started. Majority of work on old utilities networks completed, contracts for new utilities network awarded to single company, site of new Energy Centre cleared and construction of the new Primary Substation underway, planning permission granted for energy centre and wind turbine.

Milestone 05: The regeneration of the waterways will have started, improving the environment and access for the ‘big build’. 550m of new river wall completed to widen the waterway next to the Aquatics Centre by 8m, majority of work completed to refurbish, clean or tidy waterways across Olympic Park and the new lock and water control system at Prescott Channel – being delivered by British Waterways – open for testing with barges that will take freight to the Olympic Park from November.

Milestone 06: the transport enhancements that will open up east London and support the London 2012 Games will have started, with many complete. First edition of London 2012 transport plan published, first of 55 new Docklands Light Railway trains delivered, first phase of ODA funded £100m upgrade of Stratford Regional completed to relieve congestion for commuters and first batch delivered of Javelin trains that will shuttle spectators from St Pancras to the Olympic Park.

Milestone 07: construction will have started on the bridge that will take people over the Aquatics Centre to the Olympic Stadium. Building work on the Stadium will be about to begin. Construction started on bridge over the Aquatics Centre in 2007 with venue construction also underway ahead of schedule, construction started on Olympic Stadium three months earlier than planned.

Milestone 08: construction on the Olympic Village will have started. Site handed over to contractors on schedule and building work started in June 2008. Eighteen architectural practices appointed by the preferred developer to produce detailed designs.

It has taken longer than anticipated to agree the financing for the development due to the credit crunch and deterioration in the property market. Negotiations are continuing with the developer with an agreement expected later in 2008.

Milestone 09: contracts will have been let and designs agreed for the ‘big four’ venues in the Olympic Park – and at venues outside London work on site will have started. Design and construction contracts awarded for the Olympic Stadium, VeloPark and Aquatics Centre and contractors for the International Broadcast Centre/Main Press Centre appointed with Games time designs due to be submitted in the planning application this summer. Construction started on improved sailing facilities at Weymouth and Portland.

Construction work on the Broxbourne White Water Canoe Centre was delayed because contaminated land meant an alternative location for the venue, 6km from the original, had to be selected.

Milestone 10: the development of the Legacy Masterplan Framework (LMF) will be well advanced. Stage one of the development of the Park area after the Games is being undertaken by the ODA, which is clearing and cleaning the site, installing new utilities, building new world-class venues and a new urban park. Stage two, led by the London Development Agency (LDA) is focused on what the Park will be used for after the Games. Joint ODA and LDA events and working groups took place in 2007, the LDA outlined an agreed regeneration vision for the area and appointed the LMF masterplanning team this year and a comprehensive programme of consultation with local people is underway.

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