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Engineers warm to 2012 stadium

Engineers broadly welcomed the design revealed by the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) for London 2012's main stadium this week.

NCE's online poll has around 60% of voters liking Team Stadium's design presented to the world last week by ODA chief executive David Higgins.

The main permanent element of the structure comprises a bowl constructed from inclined steel beams supporting pre-cast concrete terrace units.

On top of this sits a temporary demountable structure housing 55,000 seats, which is covered by a fabric membrane roof.

The roof will be held up by a steel compression ring that will be reduced in size after the games to sit on top of the permanent structure.

However, Ramboll Whitbybird director Darren Paine admitted his initial reaction to Sir Robert McAlpine, HOK Sport and Buro Happold's (Team Stadium) solution as one of disappointment.

"If you look at most Olympic stadiums they are trying make a statement," said Paine, who is currently project director for the redevelopment of Barcelona's Nou Camp and was previously Arup project director for the Beijing Olympic stadium.

"I know this can sometimes result in a white elephant, but [the Olympics] is a world stage and the stadium should reflect that."

Many visitors to nce.co.uk also voiced concerns about the design, questioning the wisdom of spending £496M on a 25,000-seat athletics venue when similar facilities without a massive temporary element can be delivered for less, and as Wembley could be converted for large events.

The design force behind the stadium is HOK senior principal Rod Sheard. He accepted that the London 2012 key venue was perhaps less eye-catching than other Olympic stadiums.

"London's is not a stadium that's going to be screamed from the rooftops that it's big…it's just clever," said Sheard, speaking at the launch last Wednesday.

"It is the 21st century and it's time we started looking at doing things differently," he added.
Chairman of the joint Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment and Design for London 2012 design review panel Paul Finch said it made little sense to compare London to Beijing, as the UK capital had sustainability at the heart of its Games, while China was focused on displaying economic might.

This was best illustrated, added Finch, by the fact that the Beijing Olympic stadium contains 45,000t of steel, while the London 2012 venue will contain just 12t.

Lancashire fabricator Watson Steel will be providing all the steel for the 2012 stadium, but ODA chief executive David Higgins said he expected all other main subcontracting opportunities to be put out to tender by Team Stadium early next year.

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