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Olympic Park Paralympic Venue heads towards the finish line

New images released by the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) today show how Eton Manor, the only new permanent Paralympic venue, is on track to be complete by early next year.

Construction work on the Eton Manor site started just over 18 months ago and is one of the last venues to be completed on the 500-acre Olympic Park site. During the Paralympic Games, Eton Manor will host the Wheelchair Tennis competitions with temporary seating for 10,500 spectators – the new images released today show how the striking blue tennis courts and the temporary seating for the Wheelchair Tennis event are being installed.

During the Olympic Games, the venue will provide temporary aquatic training facilities including three Olympic-size swimming pools, a synchronised swimming pool and a water polo pool. The temporary Games-time pools will be relocated following the Games with potential users including schools, universities and local communities around the country.

A new webcam showing the progress being made at Eton Manor is now available on the London 2012 website at Eton Manor webcam and the latest images of work on site can be downloaded from Eton Manor images.

John Armitt, Chairman of the ODA, said: 'A huge amount has been achieved since the start of construction only eighteen months ago with work progressing on all elements of the Eton Manor project. It is encouraging to see this world-class Paralympic venue and important legacy facilities taking shape with the venue firmly on track to be completed on time and within budget.'

Seb Coe, Chair of the London 2012 Organising Committee (LOCOG), said: 'With just ten months until the flame arrives in the Olympic Park, it’s exciting to see another venue nearing completion. In addition to the important role that Eton Manor plays at Paralympic and Olympic Games, I’m delighted that it will leave behind a multi sports legacy into the future. Another benefit for the local community thanks to the London 2012 Games!'

After the Games, Eton Manor will be owned, funded and managed by Lee Valley Regional Park Authority (LVRPA); delivering multi-purpose sport and leisure facilities. Lee Valley Hockey Centre will offer two competition pitches, Lee Valley Tennis Centre will have four indoor and six outdoor courts, and provision for five-a-side football pitches. The local community and the wider region will continue to benefit for many years from the long and colourful history of sport on the site.


8,145 Posts
London 2012 - Olympic architectureIt is less than a year until the Olympic velodrome - with its smooth, curved elliptical lines - will be filled with the world's fastest cyclists. But before any medals have been awarded, the new building is winning its own plaudits.

It has been shortlisted for the 2011 Stirling Prize for architecture.


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Olympic media centres go out to tender

Olympic legacy chiefs have gone to market with the tender for the two London 2012 media centres, sites which are badly served by public transport and which they admit will be the most difficult part of the Olympic Park to sell to business.

Companies have been given nine weeks to submit proposals to the Olympic Park Legacy Company to become part of “a vibrant new commercial district” in the north-west corner of the park in Hackney.

The press and broadcast centres, built to house 8,000 journalists during the Games, are two monolithic structures which together make up 1m sq ft over five floors. But in legacy terms, they represent the OPLC’s stiffest challenge because the nearest form of public transport is an 8-minute walk to Hackney Wick station, which is on the North London overground line.

The BBC last month withdrew from talks to take up studio space, to the fury of London mayor Boris Johnson. A proposal from the Wellcome Trust to take over the whole of the media centre as part of its £1bn bid for the whole of the Olympic Park was rejected by the government in July.

Baroness Ford, OPLC chairman, said in a FT interview in July: “It’s a difficult site in terms of connectivity in the park and it’s difficult because it’s an untried location commercially. “It’s a beautiful site; a campussy site, but this is quite a big building. It’s a million square feet of commercial space, so we’ve always felt this was quite a challenge, to be honest. I’ve always said I’ve thought this was probably the most tricky venue in the park, and to find a sustainable use for.”

Transportation to and from the media centre during the Games involves a coach drop-off space and car parking for 1200 vehicles.

The OPLC envisages turning the space into a hub for creative and digital industries, building on the government’s vision of “east London Tech City”, a belt of industries stretching from Old Street to the Olympic Park. Baroness Ford said in the summer the strategy was to find an anchor tenant in the broadcast centre, and complementary uses in the press centre.

Hugh Robertson, sports minister, said: “The unrivalled location combines the innovative and creative energy for which east London is already famous ...”

The OPLC intends to shortlist potential tenants in February.

Meanwhile, ministers on Monday sought to end doubts about the legacy of the Olympic stadium by providing a legal assurance that the stadium’s running track would be retained after the Games.

The government’s decision to award the anchor tenancy of the stadium to West Ham United, which wants to keep the running track, is the subject of a judicial review in a fortnight’s time mounted by rival bidder Tottenham Hotspur, which envisaged demolishing the track.

If the court finds in Spurs’ favour, the government would be forced to retender the stadium tenancy. Mr Robertson said there were various options open to the government if it lost the review, including keeping the stadium in public hands. But the inclusion of the running track in the stadium’s legacy plans was “non-negotiable”, he said.

The government has sought to bolster London’s bid against Doha to to host the 2017 World Athletics Championships in the stadium by providing international athletics chiefs with a letter from the Treasury Solicitor underpinning ministers’ assurances that the running track would stay after the Games.

The International Amateur Athletics Federation visited the Olympic stadium on Monday as the running track was unveiled to the media for the first time.

25,925 Posts
Fun after the Games: Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park

The Olympic Park Legacy Company submits its planning application today for the 20-year transformation of the Olympic site in Stratford into five new neighbourhoods around the edges of what from 2013 will be known as the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.

The Mayor has billed it "the most important regeneration project that the city has seen in 25 years", it compares in size to the biggest regeneration projects in London in recent years (Brent Cross/Cricklewood, for instance), and the eyes of London are on it. We have been told by politicians of all persuasions that this Olympics should be judged by what it leaves behind, and this is the plan that sets out what that legacy will be.

The 5,000-page application outlines up to 8,000 new homes (in addition to the 2,800 in the already built Athletes' Village) and "employment space" for 4,400 by 2031 in five residential districts which will be slotted between the four Olympic venues that will remain (the Stadium, Aquatics Centre, multi-use sports venue and the Velodrome).

There are also proposals for nine nurseries, three health centres, three schools and another dozen as yet unspecified community buildings. Over the next 20 years, a whole new piece of city will take shape, and the OPLC hopes it will be a mixed one: 35 per cent of the housing will be "affordable" and 40 per cent are family homes, many of them terraced houses.

The timing is impressive - nearly a year ahead of the Games we have a plan in place. The people of Sydney, Athens or Beijing, where the Olympic aftermath was little considered and much Olympic land still lies fallow, are surely envious.

Today's application is just the outline of the plan. It sets out the street pattern and the approximate sizes and shapes of buildings, as well as detailing the mixture of housing, commercial and public buildings. Once this is given permission, the OPLC will seek developers to build each neighbourhood, and the details of individual buildings will be drawn up.

The OPLC hopes to have the developer for the first of the neighbourhoods - so-called Chobham Manor, consisting of 960 family homes between the Athletes' Village and the Velodrome - in place before the Games. This will be followed by East Wick, the area opposite Hackney Wick on the west side of the Park, and later by the neighbourhoods around the Park's South Plaza, an expansive public space, and the southernmost reaches near Bromley-by-Bow.

It's the work of a lifetime for many of the people involved, and I attended an exclusive briefing last week at OPLC headquarters in Stratford in the hope of understanding the legacy vision. The OPLC is a not-for-profit, public- sector organisation and has made its home in a glassy office building in Stratford town centre, where it overlooks many of the problems it will need to solve.

The most obvious of these will be clear to anyone who has visited the gargantuan shopping mall that Westfield opened last month on the edge of the Olympic Park. That development feels emphatically separate from the town centre, accessible only by drawbridge from Stratford Tube. The OPLC is squarely aiming at preventing this kind of sense of division from the rest of east London in future development.

Duncan Innes, executive director of the OPLC, says the three key themes of the legacy plan are "family houses, connectivity and quality open space". Pragmatic, if uninspiring words. Given the scope and scale of the planning application, pragmatic is probably the sensible approach, but there is little sense of a greater vision for the masterplan than solving these problems.

The plan was presented to me by Canadian architect Kathryn Firth, chief of design for the OPLC, whose track record is with commercial architects KPF and PLP. These are the kinds of architects who can get things done but have demonstrated little understanding in the past of what makes a London street special.

To be fair to Firth, she was battling a terrible cold as she presented the plans, but even so, listening to her was like playing regeneration bingo. I waited patiently for the slide demonstrating how "vibrant" the East End is, and it duly appeared: cheerful stalls from Columbia Road flower market showing how "buzzy" (her word) she would like the Olympic Park to be.

She showed the hackneyed Abercrombie Map of London from 1943, showing how London is a "series of villages", an insight so clichéd that any Londoner might find it insufficient to describe their home town.

However, there are no high streets in the legacy plan, and few obviously intimate places for a Columbia Road-style flower market. The main public space is the South Plaza, a 55-acre "island" between the Stadium and the wavy-roofed Aquatics Centre, and this is earmarked for music festivals and other large-scale events. The nearest thing I could see to a London street on the plan is in East Wick, where a school, workplaces, flats and the Multi-Use Arena take their place on what could be a really nice thoroughfare.

But the foundation for the masterplan is not, it seems, London street life. The way Firth presents it, it seems to be about creating vistas and views of the Olympic landmarks across the Park. The OPLC has worked hard to ensure new buildings leave uninterrupted views between Westfield and the Stadium, and south across the Park from the Velodrome. The imagery gets into unintentionally hilarious territory when you see the view down one of the streets in the new Marshgate Wharf neighbourhood, with the red metal contortion of Anish Kapoor's ArcelorMittal Orbit tower looming like an alien invader over standard-looking blocks of apartments.

Architects who work for practices such as Firth's are often obsessed with these visual moments but rarely realise that these are secondary in all of the best bits of London. Even St Paul's Cathedral doesn't have an axial street in front of it providing an uninterrupted view. This is a way of planning that subordinates public life and character to what tourists would like to see when they arrive for a day trip.

It seems the OPLC has no idea what the Olympic Park could be, apart from a leisure landscape for visitors and a recreation space for families. The plan reveals no deeper significance.

Firth makes the comparison between the park and the South Bank but the comparison is salutary. The Royal Festival Hall and the buildings around it were symbolic of a common enterprise, they had the role of cheering a war-battered population, and were built to help us believe in a common, optimistic future. Abercrombie's post-war reconstruction plan for London, which was quoted by Firth in her presentation, talks about "local loyalty and neighbourliness, that hold a good people together, because they have the same interests and pleasures, and because they share their troubles and their triumphs". It is hard to imagine that anyone at the OPLC could characterise their work in such a poetic and optimistic way.

The plan submitted today prioritises family life (in contrast to most regeneration plans of recent years, which focused on single-bed accommodation), and gives us another pleasant neighbourhood in which to while away some leisure hours. Its desire to connect with the surrounding city is laudable but still it's possible to long for the days when architects considered something more profound than transport connections and real estate mix. We've certainly had too much hubris in regeneration in the past but a thought for civic life should not be beyond a great city such as ours.

25,925 Posts
London 2012 Olympics: Boris Johnson tells IOC ‘we are ready’

London Mayor Boris Johnson has declared “we are ready” for the 2012 Olympics. International Olympic Committee members visiting the capital to inspect preparations for the Games were told by the Mayor that London is all set to host a fantastic summer of sport and entertainment.

“Our venues are ready, our Park is ready, our transport system is being transformed,” Mr Johnson said.

Inspectors have been told around £6.5 billion has been invested in transport links, including capacity being increased on the Docklands Light Railway and Jubilee line of the Tube. Construction of the Olympic Stadium, Aquatics Centre, Velodrome, and handball and basketball arenas is completed and the venues have been handed over to Olympics organisers.

Almost 40 public spaces in the capital have been improved, with more work to come at locations such as Piccadilly. Each London borough has been awarded £50,000 to decorate their neighbourhoods in time for the Games.

Entertainment will include live sites, where people can watch the sporting action as it happens, as well cultural events and “spectaculars” at other venues.

Mr Johnson said: “Excitement around London 2012 is already reaching fever pitch and there is no doubt that the capital will live up to everyone’s expectations but there is still much to do over the coming months. We will continue to improve our public squares, parks and streets and dress our great city with the unmistakeable Olympic rings so that London sparkles in the world’s spotlight in a few months time.”

Delegates from the IOC co-ordination commission are in London on their penultimate visit before the Olympics.
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