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London 2012 pool procurement slammed

MPs today attacked the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) over its procurement of the London 2012 Aquatics centre, accusing its officials of being willing to 'spend money like water'.

The budget for the Aquatics centre was confirmed earlier this month as £303M (£242M for the venue plus £61M for an attached bridge), up from the £73M quoted in London's bid to host the Games.

A report published today by the House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport committee criticised the ODA for ending up with just one contractor bidding for the swimming venue - Balfour Beatty - and claimed the venue was over-designed by architect Zaha Hadid and consultant Arup.

"The concept of the Aquatics Centre might be spectacular and eye-catching," says the report.

"But the saga so far suggests it has been over-designed and, with respect to the robustness of its legacy use, will be an expensive way of providing facilities for water sports needed during and after the Games.

"We are concerned that the ODA only managed to attract one firm bidder for the project, who would clearly have been aware of the huge level of contingency available to the Games as a whole."

The implication is that Balfour Beatty were effectively able to hold the ODA to ransom over the cost of the venue, and the committee has demanded that the ODA explain its claim that the figure of £303M was one used throughout the entire bidding process.

The report's attack on the Aquatics centre procurement concludes with a damming indictment of the ODA's attitude to costs in general.

"In our opinion," it says, "the history of the Aquatics Centre shows a risible approach to cost control and that the Games organisers seem to be prepared to spend money like water."

A Department for Culture, Media and Sport spokesman said: "The Aquatics Centre is a lot more than just a swimming pool. It will provide two brand new 50m pools and a diving pool for elite and community use in a capital without any such facilities at present. It will make use of sophisticated technology in terms of moveable floors and booms and the pools will be heated by renewable energy sources generated from the onsite Energy Centre during both Games and legacy.

"This is a state of the art building. It will also be a piece of stunning, iconic design, the centrepiece of the Olympic Park, designed by world renowned architect Zaha Hadid. "

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