As London Olympics Near Opening Ceremony, Games’ Centerpiece Gets Architectural Acknowledgment
London—With the London Olympic Games under way, the world turns its attention to the impressive manner the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games has managed to transform the city into a huge venue ready to greet a number of over 10,000 athletes. Never mind the hundreds of thousands of tourists that will be attending the sporting and cultural spectacle that is the Olympic Games, it is time for the men and women who worked for years to get here to have the spotlight. But an appropriate venue in which to showcase their talents is as important as their performances.
The Olympic Stadium is often the centerpiece of the architectural component of the games, being also the venue that hosts the opening ceremony and the Olympic flame, the symbol of the proceedings. London’s Olympic Stadium is an 80,000-seat structure located in the English capital’s Stratford area, part of the Newham borough. The cost of the construction was pitted at 486 million GBP, or $750 million. After site preparations were made throughout 2007, the actual construction process lasted between 2008 and 2011. The stadium was designed by Populous, formerly known as HOK Sport, an architectural firm that specializes in the design of sports facilities and convention centers. The company has extensive experience with iconic sports venues having designed the new Yankee Stadium, the new Wembley Stadium in London, Arsenal F.C.’s Emirates Stadium, San Francisco’s AT&T Park as well as an impressive list of other major NFL, MLB and college arenas.
Despite being criticized for its less avant-garde design compared to Beijing’s Bird’s Nest Stadium, the emphasis was put on the facility’s sustainability, the stadium being built in order to permit its capacity to fluctuate. The Olympic Stadium will therefore have 25,000 fixed seats, while a demountable lightweight steel and concrete upper structure were built to accommodate a further 55,000 seats. The venue’s versatility has already secured it future use, being slated to hold 2017’s World Athletics Championships. Furthermore, a lengthy battle was fought in order to obtain the rights to the stadium after the end of the Olympic and Paralympic Games. London-based football clubs Tottenham Hotspur, West Ham United and Leyton Orient have disputed rights in the past, with Tottenham since retiring in order to develop its own stadium, as previously related by MHN and CPE. The winning bid eventually came from West Ham United and Newham Council, meaning the stadium will be used as a footballing venue.
The stadium is now nominated for the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA)’s Stirling Prize, an award that for the last 17 years has celebrated British architecture’s greatest achievements. The other nominated structures are Maggie’s Cancer Centre in Glasgow, the Hepworth Wakefield Gallery in Yorkshire, the Sainsbury Laboratory for plant science in Cambridge, the New Court Rothschild Bank in London and the reincarnation of the Lyric Theatre in Belfast.