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Getting the records on track

Construction of the London 2012 Olympic venues demanded groundbreaking engineering and radical new approaches to sustainability from the supply chain, starting with drainage systems from Aco.

“The Olympic Park is the story of UK PLC written on an epic scale,” said culture secretary Jeremy Hunt in the reflective, post-Games London 2012 - a global showcase for UK plc report.

And it certainly was. The huge success of the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games united the nation. But the preparation involved needed world class engineering throughout the supply chain, and in areas quite easily overlooked.

Take the centrepiece of the Games - the Olympic Stadium - and the track on which Usian Bolt, Mo Farah and Jessica Ennis made history.

Any Olympic track has to be very precise to ensure that records set during the games are true and fair, and London’s was no different. Installation of the track starts with the drainage channels, supplied by Aco as official supplier of drainage systems (Olympic venues). They required precise tolerance levels on line and level to ensure the special Mondo sports running surface was uniform.

Olympic Drainage

Precision engineering: Aco’s drainage channels met very precise tolerance levels

Engineers and independent authorities checked everything was at the same level and line on many occasions, covering every stage through the building of the track to ensure very exact installation Accuracy was paramount and, for the final track to meet the exacting requirements, the substrate needed to be spot on. Standing water would also be unacceptable for Olympic conditions, and Aco’s drainage channels had to provide guaranteed efficiency as well as fine installation tolerances.

“Aco supplied 850m of its Sports Channel Drainage system and 2,000m of channel drainage”

The International Association of Athletes Federations (IAAF) and International Olympic Committee (IOC) standards for running tracks do not allow for heavy duty use but this track was also to be subjected to the rigours of opening and closing ceremonies.

The drainage channels needed to handle the loadings of the machinery and moving vehicles used in the ceremonies, including Spice Girls on the top of taxis. Once the opening ceremony was complete, the stadium had to be readied for the sports events to follow.

This meant that the track also had to support the use of a 40t articulated vehicle used to re-turf the stadium. Assurance of the strength of the channels, which needed to handle similar incidental loads to drainage used on heavy duty highways or airports, was provided through onsite trials and independent testing.

In all, Aco supplied around 850m of its Sport Channel Drainage systems and 2,000m of channel drainage for areas including the 400m track internal perimeter and warm up tracks. Other areas included the athletes’ entrances, the water jump, areas across vehicle and pedestrian entrances and long jump sand pits.

There are in fact four sand pits for jump events, one at each end of two run-ups so they can be used in either direction. This allows for wind direction to ensure records set have not been wind assisted and to enable scheduling around other events in the stadium.

Aco also embraced the sustainability objective with investment in an development programme to produce Vienite, a new high strength recycled polymer concrete used for the manufacture of its drainage channels.

Vienite contains post-consumer waste previously destined for landfill and is recyclable. It was widely used on all projects and in itself it is a legacy of the Olympics - a sustainable solution for the whole construction industry.


Aco’s other venues

The scope of supply for projects relating to the 2012 Olympic Games was far reaching and reflects on Aco’s breadth of solutions.

The company supplied many of the sporting and regeneration projects including the impressive Aquatics Centre, Velodrome and Royal Artillery Barracks.

Aco supplied large lengths of drainage for the Aquatics Centre including around 600m of stainless steel drainage channels and heel-safe gratings for the changing rooms.

The drainage was custom built to match the architect’s drawings, with complex interlocking channels requiring careful design, expertise and precise installation.

In total Aco supplied in excess of 30,000m of channel drainage into diverse and sometimes complex applications. All Olympic build projects were supported by its in-house design expertise.

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