2012 Olympic Venue Preview Part 1: Olympic Park
Located in East London, Olympic Park will be the heart of the 2012 Olympic Games. The square mile of formerly industrial land will house eight venues, including the Olympic Stadium, Aquatics Center, and Velodrome. Olympic Park is divided into four zones — The Street Market, Brittania Row, World Square, and Orbit Circus — each with its own unique atmosphere, attractions, and food.
The Olympic Stadium will host the Opening and Closing Ceremonies for both the Olympic and Paralympic Games, as well as the track and field events. The centerpiece of Olympic Park, Olympic Stadium is surrounded by waterways on three sides, with five spectator bridges connecting the site to the surrounding areas.
Construction on the venue began in May 2008 and spanned nearly three years; the final piece of turf was laid in March 2011. The 80,000-seat venue consists of a permanent lower tier that can hold 25,000, and a temporary steel and concrete upper tier that can accommodate an additional 55,000. Because of its innovative design, Olympic Stadium can be scaled down after the Games.
According to the Official London 2012 Website, the Olympic Stadium is the most sustainable venue ever built for an Olympic Games. The lower tier sits within a bowl in the ground, which was created by excavating 800,000 tons of soil, most of which was cleaned and reused elsewhere in Olympic Park.
Diving, Modern Pentathlon, Swimming, Synchronized Swimming
The 17,500-seat Aquatics Center joins the Olympic Stadium as one of the permanent venues specially constructed for the 2012 Olympics. More than two-thirds of Olympic spectators will enter Olympic Park via a bridge that forms part of the Aquatics Center’s roof.
The venue, designed by architect Zaha Hadid, features a 50-m competition pool, a 25-m competition diving pool, a 50-m warm-up pool, and a “dry” warm-up area for divers. Construction on the ambitious project began in July 2008 with the skeletal roof structure, which rests on two concrete supports at the building’s northern end and a support wall at the southern end. Weighing a massive 3,000 tons, the roof was originally built on temporary supports, requiring workers to lift the structure in order to build the permanent supports.
Once the roof was in position, the three pools were dug out, lined, filled, and tested before being fitted with more than 180,000 tiles. The venue was completed in July 2011 and will be used for community events and competitions following the Games.
Water Polo Arena
Located alongside the Aquatics Center in the southeast corner of Olympic Park, the temporary venue is the first dedicated water-polo facility ever built for an Olympic Games. The Water Polo Arena, topped by an inflatable roof and wrapped in a silver skin made from environmentally friendly PVC, contains a 37-m competition pool plus a smaller training pool and capacity for 5,000 spectators.
The London Olympics’ largest temporary venue will also be one of its busiest, with competition events scheduled nearly every day of the Games.
Keeping with the Games’ dedication to sustainability, the venue’s 1,000-ton steel frame is clothed in more than 200,000 square ft. of recyclable white PVC fabric. The fabric will form the canvas for lighting displays during the Games. Construction on the temporary venue began in October 2009 and was completed in June 2011; the structure’s frame took less than three months to build.
The Velodrome will share some facilities with Basketball Arena and BMX Track, including areas for catering, security, waste management, and the media.
Completed in February 2011, the Velodrome was the first Olympic venue to be finished. The venue’s design incorporates natural ventilation and light and collects rainwater to reduce water usage. The cable-net roof design, “strung” with steel cables like a tennis racket, reduced the amount of material required. Two tiers of seating can accommodate 6,000 spectators, and a glass wall around the Velodrome’s perimeter gives spectators a 360-degree view of Olympic Park.
The 525- by 295-ft. BMX Track venue covers a total area slightly larger than a soccer pitch. The fast and challenging course, featuring a 26.25-ft.-high ramp, followed by jumps, bumps, and tightly banked corners, measures approximately 1,476 ft. long for men’s races and 1,440 ft. for women’s races.
The track was built on approximately 494,405 cubic ft. of soil excavated from the Olympic Park site, cleaned, and used to create a series of levels. The venue was completed in time for the third round of the UCI BMX Supercross World Cup, a test event for the London 2012 BMX competition.
Handball, Modern Pentathlon
This flexible venue, complete with retractable seating that can change the floor size, will host several different activities during and after the Games. Construction began in July 2009 and was finished less than two years later; Copper Box was the third competition venue completed in Olympic Park.
Like many of the venues in Olympic Park, Copper Box was built with sustainability in mind. The venue is fitted with 88 light pipes for natural light, which, according to the Official London 2012 Website, will achieve annual energy savings of up to 40%.
Befitting its moniker, the top half of the venue is clad in approximately 32,292 square ft. of external copper cladding that will develop a rich natural patina as it ages.
Rounding out Olympic Park is the temporary Riverbank Arena, which comprises one pitch with spectator seating and one for warm-ups. This will be the first Olympic Games to feature pitches that aren’t green; instead, blue is used for the field of play, pink for the surrounding area. The arena was completed in October, with the surrounding structures built earlier this year.
The next two installments of Olympic Games Venue News will cover the non-Olympic Park venues in London and elsewhere.
All images from the Official London 2012 Website.