I can’t claim to have done a thing towards the Olympics. Nothing to win the bid, build the venues or even volunteer now it’s in full throttle. But, like many journalists covering the sector, it’s hard not to feel a teeny weenie bit part of the industry’s epic journey as it’s transformed a derelict swathe of east London into the magnificent Olympic Park.
The project has been on the news list now for what seems like a lifetime – even long before we won the bid in July 2005. And in these seven years since, we’ve marvelled at the technical and logistical feats designers and contractors have accomplished there; watched the dramas unfold and the rows erupt.
More than anything, we’ve witnessed the industry coming together, under the guiding hands of David Higgins and John Armitt, to produce one of its most successful projects. EVER. The myth that big projects need Bechtel has finally been de-bunked and the ghost of Wembley stadium has been finally been laid to rest.
Construction has stayed in the spotlight this week as the 2012 Games have got underway and government efforts to promote British industry abroad have taken place at Lancaster House. We saw Danny Boyle nod to efforts of the construction workers at last Friday’s opening ceremony with 500 of them forming a guard of honour as Sir Steve Redgrave carried the Olympic torch into the stadium. A nice touch and a nice surprise.
But these weren’t the only construction folk to get star billing on the night. I gather the hot ticket was for the opening ceremony with a party beforehand at the Guildhall, hosted by Sir Jeremy Hunt whose guests included Boris Johnson and George Osborne and a select few architects and engineers including Zaha Hadid and Chris Wise. Not surprisingly Ken Shuttleworth, founder of Make and designer of the handball arena (rebranded the Copper Box) was delighted to be there. “It was an amazing experience, absolutely fantastic. I wish I hadn’t watched the rehearsal now beforehand,” he told me.
Thousands who’d worked on the park had, like Shuttleworth, the chance to see the rehearsal on the Wednesday. ODA director of safety Lawrence Waterman was also one of them. “My take at the rehearsal was that the transformation of Britain from a rural to an industrial economy was marvellous – in many ways it was a pageant with a big element of construction as the workshop of the world was built before our eyes. Overall the ceremony and the end point of the crucible made me feel very proud to be involved in this programme.” Quite right too.
On a less positive note, efforts to persuade LOCOG to ease their strict marketing protocols continue to fall on deaf ears – despite the gallant efforts of Peter Murray. Whilst attending a Business Summit at Lancaster House, the New London Architecture chair persuaded Ed Vaisey to don a T-shirt calling for the ban on marketing to be lifted.
Whilst I’ve every empathy for the campaign and those prevented from marketing their work, one has to acknowledge there is another side to the story too. LOCOG does have a point in terms of protecting those who have paid for the privilege of brandishing their Olympic credentials.
Though it’s hard to have much sympathy for the giant corporates, also in this position, one assumes, is Populus. It’s the designer of the Olympic Stadium, Riverbank Arena and the venue for the beach volley ball, which are all proudly displayed on its web site. What does it make of a marketing ban being lifted one wonders?
A bronze medal goes to Wilkinson Eyre’s basketball arena for bringing such exuberance and fun to a temporary structure.
Silver to the Velodrome for its sublime elegance;
And lastly, gold for the most glorious array of flowering meadows and gardens across the park. The place is a riot of colour and absolutely amazing.
Audience participation during time-outs and match breaks. One Mexican wave is plenty, thank you.
Loud blaring music, constantly being blasted out round the park on a loop. There’s already lots going on and we’re not in a shopping mall.
The ArcelorMittal Orbit for being too red, too clunky and simply too short to call itself a viewing platform. It’s totally unnecessary.