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Olympics raise profile of UK civil engineering

Engineers’ contribution recognised

More than a third of people (34%) say that seeing the role civil engineers have played in the construction of the London 2012 Olympic Park has helped them appreciate the importance of civil engineering to society.
This was one of the main findings of a survey published this week by the ICE.

The ComRes survey of 2,000 people also showed 34% of people said delivery of Games venues had increased their appreciation of civil engineering.

It said that 53% of people no longer just think about bridges when they think of civil engineering. Forty five per cent those surveyed said they considered civil engineering to be a “respected” profession, alongside jobs such as lawyers and teachers. And 38% said they would encourage their children to pursue a career in civil engineering.

Civil engineers, working for the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) and other built environment professionals, have played a vital role in delivering the Olympic Park.

They have designed and built the venues and facilities, building 30 new bridges, restoring 8.35km of waterways, and building 1.8km of sewer tunnels underneath the site. They also oversaw the demolition of over 200 buildings, the removal of 52 electricity pylons, the cleaning of more than 2M.t of soil and the protection of wildlife and plant species.

“Our day-to-day lives depend on the infrastructure around us that is designed, built and maintained by civil engineers - from roads, railways and bridges to energy, water and waste networks,” said ICE President Richard Coackley.

“It forms the backbone of society and the economy. But unfortunately it is often only when things go wrong that the work of civil engineers is thrust into the media spotlight.

“The London 2012 Games have changed this, showcasing and celebrating the work of these often unsung heroes while at the same time helping the public understand more about what civil engineers do and what a diverse and exciting career it is.

“If anything could excite and inspire young people to pursue civil engineering as a career it’s the Olympic and Paralympic Games - a true feat of engineering in every sense.”

  • Access the ICE’s interactive Olympic Park map at

Key quotes

“Civil engineers were pivotal in successfully delivering the iconic structures on the Olympic Park, so I am pleased that the Games have helped to raise the wider profile and appreciation of the profession.”
Hugh Robertson, Sport and Olympics minister

“The point that the venues and infrastructure have been delivered on time, within budget and to the highest possible standard is a significant tribute to the profession and one which has deservedly caught the imagination of the public.”

Sir John Armitt, Olympic Delivery Authority chairman

“Constructing a landmark venue like the Olympic Park has provided a once in a lifetime opportunity to show the world the level of skill and ingenuity that our civil engineers possess.”

Boris Johnson, London mayor


Games engineer tells her story


Civil engineer Louise Hardy is the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games infrastructure director. Here she discusses her work on the project.

Civil engineer Louise Hardy is the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games infrastructure director. Here she discusses her work on the project.

What aspects of the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games construction project have you been involved with?

I was Infrastructure Director for the delivery partner appointed by the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) to programme and project manage the construction of the venues and infrastructure for the Games. I was responsible for the delivery of five major sub-programmes valued at nearly £2bn to meet stringent time and quality requirements as well as achieving significant criteria in health and safety, environment and sustainability and equality and inclusion.

What did this entail?

My work involved the programme management of the civil engineering works on the Olympic Park; including 2M.m3 of enabling works ground remediation, over 50 structures and bridges, 12km of highways, nearly 300km of utility diversions and connections and new landscaping and parkland formation.

I led a team of approximately 200 people managing 20 Tier 1 designers and contractors - predominantly under NEC Contracts while establishing, managing and monitoring the Olympic Park integrated schedule to ensure effective on-time delivery.

What has it meant to you to be part of the Olympic Games?

Participating in the bid process for the privilege of major involvement in this once in a lifetime project opportunity was hugely exciting and certainly challenging as it involved the intensive competitive dialogue process. If the procurement phase was exciting, winning the bid to become the ODA’s delivery partner (the first of its kind) was truly exciting and wonderful.
What has been the most rewarding or memorable aspect of your work on the project?

Health and safety performance was of prime importance. Health and safety decisions shaped the culture of the working community operating on the Olympic Park. The advantage of a long duration programme is that you have an opportunity to develop a strategy that truly changes the health and safety culture and that flows down through to the 12,000 workers on site. That takes time, consistency and collaboration. It is important not to disinvest those who have significant power and control of safety; those at the workface, especially the supervisors. It was key to create a shared sense of community and a collective responsibility among all contractors towards the target of zero accidents. Of all my work on the programme I am probably most proud of my involvement in the health and safety aspects and the excellent results that were achieved.

Do you think the Olympic venues being so much in the media spotlight has helped people see civil engineering in a new light?

In 2006 many believed the Olympic venues and infrastructure could not be provided, with style, on time and to budget. Keeping the faith and self belief in those early years was difficult but essential. The team always believed that an impressive outcome was possible. As a civil engineer and project director, it is an amazing feeling to know that you played a vital role in enabling the majestic Olympic infrastructure to rise elegantly from a once barren and harsh environment. Many Olympic medal winning sportsmen and women have commented in public on these fantastic achievements. Engineers have created theatres of sporting dreams!

From your experience in working on this project, what would you say to young people who have been inspired by the Olympic Games venues and infrastructure and are considering civil engineering careers?

The Olympic project has showcased the broad range of career opportunities that exist in civil engineering from geotechnics to above ground structures through to sustainability, community relations and inclusive design aspects. All this as well as the management of time, cost, risk and quality. The outcome has shown the British engineering design and construction industry at its best - delivery with style. If you want a career that truly benefits society and has a lasting legacy; become a civil engineer.

Key achievements

  • UK’s largest new urban park for more than 100 years
  • 46,000 people have worked on the London 2012 construction project.
  • 75p in the £1 has been spent on legacy
  • 10,000 pages in outline planning applications for Olympic Park
  • 10 rail lines serving the Olympic Park
  • 5 new permanent venues for London.
  • 30 new bridges connecting the site
  • 10,000 - the amount of tonnes of steel used on the Olympic stadium
  • 11 residential blocks will make up the Olympic Village
  • 2M.t of soil cleaned

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