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July 26 2012

Take a virtual tour of the Olympic Park

Fly through the Olympic Park and explore the main venues using our immersive photographic tour. Discover hidden photographs, galleries and videos by clicking on the venues within the aerial panorama

June 08 2011

Olympic basketball arena's design hailed as 'template for future'

The £42m venue is designed to be deconstructed after the Games and its seats sold off to other event organisers

The 12,000-seat basketball arena at the Olympic site in east London has been hailed by organisers as a template for future games, after the latest completed venue was unveiled on Wednesday.

The completion of the basketball arena leaves just one venue at the park still to be finished, the landmark Zaha Hadid aquatics centre.

The £42m basketball venue is designed to be deconstructed after the Games as part of an original plan to avoid white elephants, with the 12,000 seats destined for Silverstone and other sporting venues and the Scottish manufacturers of the external structure in talks with Rio 2016 to ship it to Brazil.

Dennis Hone, chief executive of the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA), said building a temporary indoor venue of its size was unprecedented and could form the basis of an International Olympic Committee plan to bring down the cost of hosting the Games.

"It makes a lot of sense, especially if you want to take the Games beyond the richest cities in the world. To do that, you've got to bring the costs down," he said.

Hone said the decision was made to make it a temporary venue in order to roughly halve the cost and avoid a white elephant that would have found it hard to compete as a concert or conference venue with nearby rivals such as the O2. He described it as "Meccano" construction.

The distinctive white arena, which sits in the north end of the park between the athletes' village and the much-praised velodrome, will be lit in the colours of the Olympic rings at night to provide a focal point.

Across the Olympic Park, two years of planning and design and four years of construction work are coming to an end, with only the controversial £269m aquatics centre of the major sports venues still to be completed.

Hone defended the addition of two temporary stands to either side of the swimming complex. The huge cost of the design was justified by politicians and officials at the time by claims it would provide as a distinctive architectural statement amid a sea of otherwise functional designs.

But visitors to the Games will not see the full sweep of the Hadid design because it is dwarfed by the temporary "water wings". Hone urged critics to reserve judgment until they had been inside. "You'll see the whole pool in front of you with monitors above your head with all the stats and information. I want everybody to hold fire on that until they see inside."

But he accepted that there had been a "trade off" between ensuring the building had a viable legacy as a 3,000 capacity swimming venue and the design.

"I think it's going to be stunning internally. But I accept that there is a trade off between getting in the maximum number of people and the exterior aesthetics of the building," he said.

The £486m main stadium has already been completed, as have the velodrome, the handball arena and the media centre. Outstanding work includes the completion of the BMX track, a temporary water-polo venue and the temporary hockey stands that will seat 15,000 during the Games.

The ODA estimates that it will spend £7.3bn of its original £8.1bn budget and Hone said that keeping the construction to time had been a key factor in mitigating risk and weathering changes in the economic climate.

"We have had the best of British construction. It has been a showcase for what the best of British construction can do," he said. "The ODA has between £600m and £800m worth of work still to complete, chiefly in "stitching together the landscape of the site".

Hone said positive public perceptions of the Games to date were largely down to the success of the ODA and its partners in avoiding an Athens-style meltdown.

It has also helped rehabilitate Britain's ability to deliver big projects in the wake of the bitter disputes and delays that marred the £757m rebuilding of Wembley and the non-delivery of the Picketts Lock stadium in 2001.

"As a management team and an organisation we set our stall out to say if we hit time the rest would take care of itself," said Hone, the ODA's former finance director who was promoted to chief executive in February after David Higgins left the team to run Network Rail.

"If you finish with a year out, the bargaining power or leverage can stay with the client. Without being complacent, we can say that the Olympic Games venues are sorted."

While ODA has been responsible for building the venues, the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games (Locog) – which has its own £2bn privately raised budget from sponsorship and ticket sales – still has substantial work to do to make them ready for Games-time.

The Olympic Delivery Authority is expected to officially hand over the venues to Locog, chaired by Lord Coe, to mark the "one-year to go" point on 27 July this year. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2011 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

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