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Rumours fly in Olympic race

Who's going to win the Olympic Delivery Partner bid? We asked you - and some professional turf accountants.

CONSTRUCTION IS always rife with speculation, rumour and paranoia, but it is reaching new heights as the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) gets closer to deciding who it's going to hire as its project delivery partner.

For the winning bidders it means landing the biggest prize of their careers. For their established suppliers it represents a very good chance of high-profile work on the sexiest job around.

The ODA announced last week that it would pick its partner in August. Four teams are in the race and in competitive dialogue until the end of June. Tender documents, are expected at the beginning of July.

So who will win? We've tried to gauge where the clever money is going by conducting our own poll of 100 senior construction executives. And we've asked two of the UK's leading bookmakers to calculate the odds.

All are united in believing that it's head to head between Bechtel and the CLM consortium of CH2MHill, Laing O'Rourke and Mace (see box).

But as World Cup watchers are aware, being favourite is often no guarantee of success.

So why Bechtel? Its backers know it is a favourite with politicians and has a strong UK track record. But there's a lot of grumbling about it being uncompromisingly American. 'These are our Games. Bechtel isn't infallible and we can do it ourselves, ' was a typical comment.

There are also some issues with style. Individually the Bechtel people are impressive, even charismatic. But the perception is of a corporate entity akin to a Doctor Who-style alien.

Meanwhile joint favourite CLM has linked arguably the best pre-construction planner in the UK - Mace - with one of the best builders - Laing O'Rourke - all bolstered by the US's top programme manager. But what is confusing people is why Laing O'Rourke would give up on the chance of constructing the Olympic Stadium. 'It's because they want to show they can add value up front by steering others, ' said someone in the know.

That said, everyone spoken to by NCE believes that Legacy (Bovis Lend Lease/KBR/Capita Symonds) would also do a great job. What worked against it in our poll was the conviction that Bovis would also be the contractor for the Stratford City Development containing the Olympic Village. The feeling was that it couldn't do everything.

There was also the George Bush connection with KBR parent Halliburton and how that would play with the east London locals. But perhaps, if Legacy wins the delivery partner role, Bovis will pass on Stratford - maybe to Laing O'Rourke which could then bid for the stadium.

The fourth contender is G3 - the combined might of Amec, Balfour Beatty and Jacobs - and while it is pegged as a long shot it has attracted support from the most senior professionals in our poll, and particularly clients.

'They'll deliver and they are strong on building and civils, ' was one comment.

Team analysis

We asked bookmakers Betfair and William Hill to give us their odds, and NCE persuaded 100 senior construction directors to give us their views.

NB: Betfair and William Hill are not taking bets on this.

Bechtel: the Chelsea of the competition.

Bechtel brands itself as a global engineering, construction and project management company. Privately owned and based in San Francisco it has 40 offices, 40,000 employees and a turnover of £10.6bn ($18bn) around the world. It counts Athens Metro, the Channel Tunnel, Hong Kong airport, Crossrail and relief work following Hurricane Katrina among its key projects.

Odds Betfair 5-4 William Hill 5-4 NCE 2-1

Bechtel has a reputation for delivering - particularly when things look tough. Chelsea went 1-0 down against West Ham last season and had a player sent-off. They went on to win. When Bechtel was brought in to sort out the West Coast Main Line, its chances looked similarly bleak.

But it delivered. Foreign-owned, it has friends in high places and Mourinho-like inspirational leadership. But season tickets at Chelsea don't come cheap and Bechtel is no different. Plenty of commentators labelled Chelsea arrogant after Mourinho said he was more worried about bird flu than being beaten. Plenty of commentators feel that Bechtel has a similarly pumped-up view of itself.

G3 (Amec, Balfour Beatty, Jacobs): the West Ham United of the bidders.

The UK?s major contractors Amec and Balfour Beatty cite their long and successful partnership on projects such as the Jubilee Line extension, the Limehouse Link Road and University College Hospital as being an advantage in their race to win the role. Consultancy comes from Jacobs in Scotland so it can claim to be the only truly home-grown consortia.

Odds Betfair 20-1 William Hill 10-1 NCE 9-2

West Ham is proud of its London heritage and has a passion for developing home-grown talent. G3 is no different. This is the most ?British? of the bidders. It has had success with the heavy work on Terminal 5 at Heathrow and the building of the Jubilee Line. But can it see off its critics? Balfour Beatty is part of Metronet, the favourite whipping boy of Transport for London and Mayor Ken Livingstone. G4 caused a betting shock when progressing as far as they did in the first series of the X-Factor, so perhaps G3 will be the dark horses of this competition?

CLM (CH2MHill, Laing O?Rourke, Mace): the Manchester United of the competition.

This programme management/contractor/ project manager consortium employs a total of 39,000 staff and has a combined annual turnover of £5bn. Between the three companies the team has experience in seven summer and winter Olympics including the upcoming summer and winter games in Beijing and Vancouver. The team has access to quality people including former Halcrow Middle East boss and Channel Tunnel veteran Rab Brown, big project man Norman Haste and the inspirational Ray O?Rourke though they are not in the bid team.

Odds Betfair 6-4 William Hill 5-4 NCE 2-1

CLM has successful delivery experience on Terminal 5 at Heathrow, Ascot?s new stand and Dubai airport. There?s top talent here but also a feeling that the company lacks depth in certain key areas, particularly civils. United was desperate for a playmaker at times last year and CLM could be the same. It has chosen a US firm to lead the bid from its side. That?s like replacing Sir Alex Ferguson with Bill Cowher, head coach at Superbowl-winning Pittsburgh Steelers: but does it know enough about the local game?

Legacy (Bovis Lend Lease, Capita Symonds, KBR): the Arsenal of the bidders.

UK, Australian and US expertise are united in this bid team. Bovis Lend Lease is one of the world?s leading project management companies, headquartered in Australia, but with the Bovis brand also has a strong UK presence. It has a history of working with Capita Symonds - most recently in London on the regeneration of the Greenwich peninsula. US programme manager KBR, currently being floated in New York by parent Halliburton, brings extra programme management skills.

Odds Betfair 16-1 William Hill 4-1 NCE 11-2

They?ve ?been there and done that? with their programme management work on the Sydney and Atlanta games, and just like the cosmopolitan Arsenal this consortium has a blend of global expertise. It is a good-looking team led by Capita Symonds director Jonathan Goring, with Australian Rugby World Cup project manager Tim Urquhart and KBR global events and Sydney project manager Michael McDonough in the side. But, like Arsenal in Europe last season, it could nd itself stretched if, as the industry assumes, Bovis take on the Stratford City half of the Olympic project.

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