Learning from the Olympics

What’s the largest building on the 2012 Olympic Park? At 300 metres long, it’s the Media Centre. Together with ancillary buildings it will accommodate around 22,000 journalists and technical staff covering the Games. The media will outnumber the 17,800 athletes and team officials expected.

Of course, these numbers are dwarfed by the 100,000 workforce, including 70,000 volunteers, needed to run the Games.

These figures, part of a dazzling array of statistics and facts, came out in presentations to the second meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Excellence in the Built Environment, held in the House of Commons last Monday evening.

John Armitt, chairman of the Olympic Delivery Authority, along with John Hopkins, responsible for “parklands and public realm”, and Don Ward from Constructing Excellence all gave enlightening talks at the event.

For all the emphasis on design and construction, Armitt highlighted that it will be management and maintenance that will largely determine how the Olympic Park looks in 2012 and beyond.

The landscape of the Olympic Park and the setting of the various venues promises to be a highlight for those visiting. Serious thought has gone into the planning and creation of the park – this will not be just a few trees plonked down (although 4,000 are being planted).

Several waterways which cross the site have been restored to health, wetlands and meadows have been planted and riverside paths created. More than 300,000 wetland plants will also be planted in the Park. It will be the UK’s largest ever urban river and wetland planting. The 2012 Gardens will celebrate the British passion for gardens and horticulture.

Don Ward explained that the success of the development programme owed a lot to upfront good practice – in procurement, employment, training, health & safety etc. This approach helped the ODA deal with the turn in the market and supplier insolvencies.

Legacy is an Olympics buzzword. Ward set out the legacies for the construction industry, including the 2012 Construction Commitments, experience that has helped on other large projects such as Crossrail, 300 apprentices that will hopefully transfer to other projects and employers, and the work on sustainability.

The ODA is working with several professional bodies to make sure this legacy is captured and there is likely to be an event to showcase the sustainability achievements.