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The London Olympics show we do have talent...and vision

As you will see from the Letters pages this week and from the array of comments online at, my recent comments about Qatar’s infrastructure plans haven’t been universally embraced by the profession.

I can only assume that I have been misunderstood. But forget money, forget culture, forget technology. I was talking about vision.

Of course it’s a simplistic view − having the cash available can never be underestimated. But my point is that, when it comes to planning and delivering infrastructure in the UK, this vital big vision is so often missing.

Fortunately not always. Because when you look at what has been achieved over the last five years to create the stunning infrastructure ahead of the London 2012 Olympic Games you quickly realise it can be done.

As this week’s NCE major project report demonstrates, having a nationally supported vision quickly generates the passion and the will to succeed − against all the odds.

The spectacular 2012 main Stadium, Velodrome and Aquatics Centre sit magnificently within the new Olympic Park. Alongside is the sparkling Olympic Village, shopping complex, temporary venues and an array of new transport infrastructure. It is designed not only for four weeks of world class sport but also to kick start vast regeneration.

Hundreds of firms from across the design and construction community have helped to bring the vision to reality and every one of them − virtually without exception − feels immense pride in what they have achieved.

“We need more of such visionary infrastructure projects in the UK and more belief by government that it can bend democratic processes to achieve the greater good.”

They must be congratulated. As we launch this year’s NCE Graduate of the Year Award, they have provided an unambiguous statement about why a career in civil engineering remains rewarding and, more importantly, demands the best talent.

Interestingly, of course, this project could only have been achieved by government short-circuiting the usualplanning and project financing processes. And public money was made available.

Thank goodness for that. We need more of such visionary infrastructure projects in the UK and more belief by government that it can bend democratic processes to achieve the greater good.

If we want to ensure a healthy flow of young and talented engineers into the profession we must work hard to ensure that − as we saw with the Olympics − investment in infrastructure is the obvious solution.

…And finally…NCE reaches its 40th birthday next year and in advance of this we are examining what the NCE of the future looks like for you, our readers.

We need your input. I urge you therefore to get involved by completing the questionnaire so that we know more about what you want and value from NCE and how you want to receive it.

  • Antony Oliver is NCE’s editor

Readers' comments (1)

  • Wrt to 2012 Limpics I recall in the early planning/funding approval days that a very significant(30+%) part of the £9m budget was for contingencies. Was this the case, and if so, does it not rather take the shine of the 'completed within budget' triumph?

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