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London Moving Forward with Olympic Plans

London, chosen on July 6 as the host of the 2012 Summer Olympics, has begun moving forward with its projects. London’s bid, submitted late last year, had been strengthened by an ambitious proposal for a curvaceous aquatic center by Zaha Hadid (which will be implemented) and an Olympic stadium concept, featuring a sleek wrap-around roof, by Foreign Office Architects (which may not). Another principal element of the bid was an Olympic masterplan led by EDAW (with Foreign Office Architects, Allies and Morrison, HOK Sport, and Fluid). It proposed a regeneration of the 15,000-acre Lower Lea Valley, a poverty-stricken area about three miles from London's center, that was chosen as the site for the 500-acre Olympic park. The plan focused on a networked park structure, a new road network, and cleaned up waterways. It also mapped out the sites for each venue. Richard Rogers, the mayor of London's chief advisor, feels the bid won "because it used the Games as a catalyst for improving the life of the city and of the nation."


Work has now begun to create the Olympic park. The cost for the redevelopment is estimated at $917 million, with 33 venues planned, eight to be built from scratch, including the 80,000-seat, $450 million Olympic stadium, a $450 million, 12,000-seat velodrome, and a second multi-sport arena. A number of design competitions for these projects will be announced in October. Zaha Hadid's $117 million, 20,000-seat aquatics center is already set for completion in December 2008. That venue’s S-shaped roof was inspired, officials say, by the building's riverside location. An estimated $4.13 billion will be needed to finance all Olympic facilities. Other venues include such famous spots as Hyde Park, Lord's Cricket Ground and Wimbledon.

The Olympic Village will adapt to residential use and the main stadium to a 25,000-seat venue at the end of the Games. The plan is meant to accelerate London's eastward expansion to accommodate London’s expected population growth. A special lottery is expected to raise over half of the needed funds. A new planning authority, the Olympic Development Agency, will soon be introduced to speed up the process, hopefully avoiding the delays that plagued Athens in 2004. A key issue is security, particularly in the wake of the recent terrorist attacks in London. Jason Prior of EDAW, who is leading the bid team, says the team has already investigated the spatial needs of security-related evacuation plans for the venues and park.

Lucy Bullivant