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Olympic Questions

The Olympic Delivery Authority programme leaves many questions unanswered, according to John McKenna.

As Gordon Brown helped to build the hype for Beijing 2008 during his trip to China, his own Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) last week published its most detailed plan yet for the construction of London's Olympic Park.

Its 96-page Programme Delivery Baseline Report defines the scope and timetable for all major works on the project, as well as reproducing the detailed breakdown of London's £9.3bn budget first revealed by Olympic minister Tessa Jowell last month.

However, despite such detail and the report's significant size, it offers up more questions than answers to anyone with more than a passing knowledge of the UK's most high-profile construction scheme.

For example, the only venue budget given in specific detail is that of the main stadium, first confirmed by ODA chairman John Armitt as £496M last October (NCE 18 October 2007). All other venue budgets have been withheld by the ODA for fear of being ripped off by unscrupulous consultants and contractors.

An unnecessary and unfounded fear. Firms hardly need published figures on public spending to gain advantage over the ODA – its tendency to shortlist only one contractor for major venues like the main stadium and aquatics centre in an already over-heated London construction market has seen to that.

Another omission of the report is the names of those firms already hard at work in design offices and onsite. While detailing the scope of all the various works required to make the Government's London 2012 dreams reality, the ODA fails to give credit where it's due by identifying those firms that helped define the scope in the first place. A solitary mention of ODA delivery partner CLM, the consortium of CH2M Hill, Laing O'Rourke and Mace, is the only nod given to UK construction in this sizeable document.

No wonder firms working on the Olympic Park continue to complain about their 2012 gagging orders and limited opportunities to publicise their contribution – surely one of the main benefits of working on a high profile but high risk project.

But the document does offer a rough guide to construction on the East London site and elsewhere between now and 29 August 2012 – although the ODA hopes the finishing touches will be made long before the day of the opening ceremony.

The report includes a definition of scope for the following areas:

Much of the work to deliver the Olympic Park's infrastructure is already nearing completion. Contractor Murphy completed tunnelling to allow power lines hanging over the site to be moved underground in June 2007. Electrification of below ground lines is due to take place this summer.

Full-scale remediation of the park by contractors Morrison in the north of the Park and Nuttall in the south has been underway since last summer. The majority of work will be complete this summer to allow the construction of key venues to begin.

EDF energy was this month awarded the contract to design, build, finance and operate the electrical distribution network that will serve the whole of the Olympic Park and neighbouring Stratford City site. Electricity and heat will be generated onsite by a combined heat and power plant, biomass powered boilers and a cooling pipe network. There will also be new networks for gas, water, sewerage and telecommunications.

The Olympic Park also requires the construction of 20km of roads, including 12km of loop roads, footpaths, seven highway bridges and 11 footbridges. Other additional structures include surface and foul water drainage, retaining walls and flood mitigation and culvert works.

Work on the £496M main stadium is underway: its design was completed and revealed last November and Team Stadium (a consortium of Sir Robert McAlpine, Buro Happold and HOK Sport) has already begun building its site office ready to begin construction in April.
Balfour Beatty looks set to be confirmed as the Aquatics centre contractor by next month and will also begin constructing the venue designed by Zaha Hadid and Arup in April. Attached to this during games time will be a temporary Water Polo Arena.

The other main permanent venue, the Velopark, is being designed by Hopkins Architects and Expedition Engineering, with a contractor due to be appointed shortly.

Other venues include the permanent Handball Arena and the temporary Hockey Centre, Basketball Arena and Fencing Arena. There are also venues being used outside the Olympic Park in Stratford, including the upgrade of rowing facilities at Eton Dorney and sailing facilities at Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy, plus the construction of a new Canoe and Kayaking slalom at Broxbourne in Hertfordshire.

The ODA's £500M transport budget is a fraction of the £5bn being spent on Games related improvements by Transport for London (TfL). But, it is still significant, with the £119M upgrade of Stratford station including construction of a new westbound Central Line platform and the extension of existing platforms.

Indeed the majority of ODA transport investment focuses on rail. This includes extensions and signalling on the Lea Valley line, the relocation of railway sidings, and upgrade of local Docklands Light Railway services, including a three-car service from Poplar to Woolwich requiring 12 platform extensions.

NCE's latest Games Briefing conference will take place on Wednesday 12 March in London. For more information go to

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