London 2012 Olympic Park officially handed over to Legacy Corporation as transformation begins

Tuesday, 27 November 2012
By Duncan Mackay

Aquatics Centre post London 2012 November 27 2012November 27 - The £292 million ($468 million/€362 million) transformation of the Olympic Park officially begun today as the temporary seats installed at the Aquatics Centre for London 2012 were stripped away by builders. 

It marked the Park being handed over from London 2012 organisers to the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC), the body that will be in charge of managing it and who have a 20-year build programme planned.

Work on dismantling the temporary venues on the Park controversially started as soon as the Closing Ceremony of the Paralympics finished on September 9. 

London 2012 ignored calls to keep the Park open for a bit longer to allow people not lucky to get tickets during the Games to visit it because they claimed it would cost them more in hire fees. 

Power cables, generators and other materials and utilities including 165,000 square metres  of tents, 140 kilometres of fencing, 240 kilometres of barriers and 100,000 square metres of temporary sports surfaces needed to stage the Games have been removed and returned to the firms who had rented them to London 2012.

Work on London 2012 Olympic Park begins September 13 2012Work on the deconstruction of the Olympic Park started as soon as London 2012 finished in September

The Riverbank Arena, which hosted hockey during the Olympics and football during the Paralympics, has already been dismantled, along with the water pole venue and the Basketball Arena, the stands used for the BMX in the VeloPark and the controversial Dow Chemical-sponsored wrap around the Olympic Stadium.

"We began our work straight after the Games to transform the venues, parklands and facilities in the Olympic Park and remove temporary infrastructure as quickly as we could," said London 2012 venues and infrastructure director James Bulley.

"We have provided a platform for the Legacy Corporation to continue transforming the Park into a park for future generations."

Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park gaphic 2The venues used for London 2012 are due to be transformed over the next few years

The reconstruction programme, called "Clear, Connect, Complete", is due to see the Park reopen in phases starting next year on July 27, which will mark the first anniversary of the London 2012 Opening Ceremony, and rechristened the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. 

A neighbourhood of about 850 homes, 70 per cent of which are due to be family homes of three bedrooms or more, to be known as Chobham Manor, is to be built where the Basketball Arena once stood.

Taylor Wimpey and London and Quadrant will begin building the Park's first neighbourhood in autumn 2013. 

The LLDC must also connect the Park to the surrounding area with new roads and pathways.

At its peak, it is estimated that up to 1,000 construction workers will be working on the Park during the transformation project.

To mark the handover, industrial abseiler Vicki Tough took down the last strip of the shell of the seating used on the east wing of the Zaha Hadid-designed Aquatic Centre.

So far, all 17,500 seats have been removed as workers prepare to replace temporary stands on either side of the building with glass windows.

Operator Greenwich Leisure Limited (GLL) will then help to fit out the venue as a public leisure centre.

"Taking control of the park today is another major milestone and in only eight months' time the Park will begin to re-open," said Colin Naish, LLDC executive director of infrastructure.

"Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park will be home to some of the best sporting and entertainment venues in the world, and will be a vibrant destination for people to live, work, visit and enjoy."

Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park June 2014A computer generated image of how the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park should look when it reopens in 2014

The whole Park is due to open by spring 2014 but LLDC chief executive Dennis Hone has said the amount of work needed to convert the Olympic Stadium - which still has to find a tenant, although Premier League West Ham United remain the favourites -  means it may not reopen until August 2015 at the earliest, and possibly not until August 2016, which would be after the Opening Ceremony of Rio 2016.

The LLDC is exploring various design options to convert the stadium to meet the specifications of the four bidders in the running to use the venue, according to Hone.

The most complex options are unlikely to be completed until the start of the football season in August 2016.

Changes needed across the Park include reworking around 9.5km of the road network put in place for the Games along with 30 bridges and underpasses to create new footways and cycle paths.

A 1.6km outdoor road cycle circuit which will cross the River Lea will be added to help form the Lee Valley VeloPark.

The Velodrome, scene of so many Team GB and ParalympicsGB successes at London 2012, will be the centrepiece but mountain bike trails have also been earmarked and the BMX track is to be regraded for public use.

Eton Manor, which hosted the Paralympic wheelchair tennis competition and warm-up swimming pools during the Games, is to become a new sports facility called Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre.

The 2015 European Hockey Championships are to be staged there and a bid is in to host the ITF Wheelchair Tennis Masters Championship, starting in 2014. 

From the outside, the Copper Box, which hosted handball during the Olympics and goalball during the Paralympics, will look the same when the Park eventually reopens.

Copper Box exteriorThe Copper Box will retain its distinctive exterior when the Olympic Park reopens

It is to be turned into a public leisure centre, capable of hosting community sports, competitions, cultural and business events, with a capacity of around 7,500.

It will also be the home of British Basketball League team MK Lions, who are relocating from Milton Keynes and will be rebranded as the London Lions. 

The giant ArcelorMittal Orbit tower will not need any work but operator Balfour Beatty Workplace will be furnishing the interior inside

It will be a visitor attraction with views across London from the two glass-enclosed platforms.

Contact the writer of this story at duncan.mackay@insidethegames.biz
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