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Structures Built for the London Olympics

20 April 2011 No Comment

The Olympic Games stand as a symbol for fair competition and they represent a commemoration of life. Throughout the last centuries, the games have grown in scale to a point where almost every single nation is represented. On such a great occasion, the city and the nation that hosts the competitions are given an immense opportunity to showcase themselves to the whole world.


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The Olympic Games became not just a chance for young athletes to break new records and gain worldwide fame, but also an appropriate plea for architects to create amazing structures dedicated to sport celebration.

This is what is going to happen in London as well, on the occasion of the third edition of the Olympic Games ever hosted by UK’s capital city. While the last preparations for the big event are on their way, new and impressive buildings can be spotted on London’s brand new Olympic Park.

In the following, we will explore London’s newest and grandest sport venues.

The Olympic Stadium

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This particular structure will be the masterpiece of the Olympic Park, a huge sporting arena complex that is  located at Marshgate Lane in Stratford, the Olympic Stadium has a capacity of 80,000, making it the third largest arena in Britain, behind Wembley Stadium and Twickenham Stadium.


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Apart from the splendid architecture, what’s truly amazing about the new Olympic Stadium is an innovation in engineering that will allow the capacity of the stadium to decrease to 25,000 seats after the Games will end. That will happen because the Olympic Stadium is made up of temporary layers, applied on a constructing method based on the principle of cut and fill. Basically, the builders excavated a great mass of land into the shape of a bowl, which represents the support for the permanent structure of the stadium. This includes the 25,000 seats, the track the field, the changing rooms and the warm-up zones.


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The upper structure, comprising of 55,000 seating places is made out of lightweight steel and concrete. In order to keep the formation as light as possible, fabric was used in the construction of the roof, while its main structure is based on the engineering principles of a bicycle wheel.

The stadium was designed by Populous, an architectural firm specializing in the design of sport facilities. About 537 million pounds was needed for the construction of the stadium, which will host the opening and closing ceremony of the Olympic Games in 2012.

The Velodrome


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Initially a separate project from all the structures built for the 2012 event, the Velodrome (otherwise known as the Velopark) had a spectator capacity of only 1,500 seats. After winning the bid for the Olympics, the structure was redesigned, so that now it contains a BMX racing facility, a 1.6 km road racing circuit and a cross-country mountain bike course. In addition, the number of seats was supplemented, so that now the Velodrome has a capacity of 6,000.


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Designed by Hopkin Architects, the venue was completed in February 2011 and had a cost of 105 million pounds. While the BMX racing track is still under construction, the Velodrome was already officially opened on the occasion of UCI Track Cycling World Cup Classics.


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Unique in design, the Velodrome will offer the spectators not only a good watch on what’s going on the race tracks, but also a wonderful panoramic view over the Olympic Park. In between the concrete tiers, huge glass walls will give spectators a 360 degrees view across the park and they will allow outside people to see the competitions taking place inside.

The Aquatics Centre


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This will be the gateway to London’s Olympic Park, since it is expected that more than two-thirds of spectators will enter the park over a huge bridge that tops the facility. Designed by Zaha Hadid, a Pritzker Prize winning architect, the Aquatics Centre features an amazing wave-like roof, 160 m long and 80 m wide. At the time of its completion, this innovative roof will have a longer span than Heatrow’s Terminal 5.


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Like the Olympic Stadium, the Aquatics Centre will also have extra-seating capacity during the Games, through its two temporary wings. 17,500 people are expected to admire the diving and swimming competitions in 2012, which will take place in two 50 meter swimming pools and a 25 meter diving pool. After ending the Olympics and Paralympics, the facility will feature only 2,500 seats.


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The actual design of the building is a reduced alternative to the initial design, which included a roof three times wider than the final construction (3,300 sq meters in comparison with 1,040 sq meters). Although the early idea was reduced in size and grandeur due to its immense costs, it will take no less than 303 million pounds just to finish this structure.


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A Water Polo Arena will be erected right next to the Aquatics Centre, as a temporary structure. This will host both men and women polo competitions and it will contain two pools: a warm-up one and a competition pool. The two venues will be connected in order to enhance the back-of-house services during the event.

The Basketball Arena


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This is going to be one of the largest temporary venues ever built for the Olympic Games and one of the biggest London sport facilities. The versatility is the main feature of this venue, since it will be hosting the games for the basketball tournament, the semi-finals and final matches of handball, as well as the wheelchair basketball and rugby championships for the Paralympics.


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The adaptability of the structure is once again underlined by the dedicated time in changing the venue’s functionality. There will be only 22 hours to transform the location from a basketball arena into a handball arena. Less than 12 hours will be available for converting the field into a wheelchair rugby arena. For all the competitions, the venue will be able to house 10,000 spectators.


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Two thirds of the materials used in the construction are recyclable or reusable. Therefore, the constructors hope they will be able to relocate the venue elsewhere in Britain, after the Olympic Games come to an end. The Basketball Arena is the work of Sinclair Knight Merz, Wilkinson Eyre and KSS Design Group and the construction will eventually cost about 42 million pounds.

The Handball Arena


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Up to 7,000 people will be able to enjoy live handball, goal ball and modern pentathlon competitions during the London 2012 Games, in the Handball Arena. The particular design of this venue will feature 3,000 sq meters of copper cladding (most of it being recycled), that will develop a distinctive color, as time passes by.


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The entry access will be granted directly on the concourse level, which surrounds the building. Glass walls will allow the visitors of the Olympic Park to witness the competitions from outside and sunlight to reach the colorful interior.


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Retractable seats will be used in the interior, so that the functionality of the arena is quite flexible. The post-games plans include transforming the venue into a multi-sport arena for community usage, athlete training sessions and small-to-medium scale events. In fact, this will be the only permanent indoor arena in the Olympic Park, since the Basketball Arena is most likely to be relocated.

Are you impressed by these structures dedicated to sport celebration? If so which is your favourite London Olympic venue…?

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