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  • London Update: Olympic Showpiece Days from Debut


    The Olympic Stadium will rise on the south edge of the Olympic Park. (LOCOG)  
    Design Innovation for Olympic Showpiece?

    London 2012 officials are set to cause a stir when they unveil the much-anticipated design of the 80,000-seat Olympic Stadium next Wednesday.

    The Olympic Delivery Authority has confirmed that the design announcement will take place at the Olympic Park in Stratford, east London. It's one of the most important milestones so far in London's preparations.

    Representatives of the Olympic Board will be involved. Its members are Olympics Minister Tessa Jowell, London mayor Ken Livingstone, British Olympic Association chairman Colin Moynihan and LOCOG chair Sebastian Coe.

    ODA chairman John Armitt and his chief executive David Higgins are also likely to be given the opportunity to speak about the showpiece project they are charged with delivering on time and on budget.

    The interest lies in what kind of stadium London will get for its whopping $1 billion price tag.

    Last month, the ODA admitted that the stadium's cost had risen by $432 million (77%) from the original bid figure, attributing the hike to inflation, VAT, legacy conversion and earthworks.

    Given the attention lavished on Beijing’s iconic Bird's Nest Stadium for next year's Games, London has a hard act to follow.

    Unlike Beijing's showpiece, the 2012 Olympic Stadium will not be permanent but resizeable.

    After the Games, it will be downsized to become a 25,000-seat venue with athletics at its core. Question marks remain over how the venue will be subsidized in legacy mode, with London 2012 officials hopeful of securing a football or rugby club as an anchor tenant.

    Team McAlpine, the consortium of architects HOK Sport, structural engineer Buro Happold and contractor Sir Robert McAlpine, is masterminding the project.

    Wembley Stadium architects HOK Sport, the world's leading sports architecture firm, is said to have designed another eye-catching venue.

    While the $1.6 billion Wembley Stadium has a 315-metre long iconic “steel tiara” visible on the London skyline, the 2012 venue is expected to make a visual statement with a fabric wrap on which sponsorship and Olympic artwork can be displayed.

    Further innovations in stadium design are set to be revealed at next week's ceremony. Around 60 members of the press and broadcast media are expected to attend.

    Concerns Grow Over 2012 Budget

    The Conservatives shadow Olympic minister Hugh Robertson has attacked the British government for failing to come clean on the true cost of the 2012 Games.

    Robertson fueled the ongoing row over the $18 billion budget after Olympics Minister Tessa Jowell told MPs that a breakdown of costs had not been completed and handed to the Olympic Board, which oversees the 2012 project.

    “As an absolute minimum, the Olympic Board needs an up-to-date budget, a monthly cash-flow and an itemization of the contingency allocated each time it meets,” Robertson said.

    “Without this, there is no effective scrutiny and the public can have no confidence that the budget will not spiral.”

    His claims come in the wake of concerns voiced by British Olympic Association chairman Lord Moynihan over the government’s financial management of London 2012.

    But the government said it was untrue to claim Jowell made any admission whatever that the Olympic Board lacks the basic financial information necessary to scrutinize the budget for 2012.

    “Tessa Jowell was talking about one specific piece of work - the development of a detailed baseline budget, which is continuing,” said a spokesman for the Department of Culture, Media and Sport.

    “This involves a review of scope, budget, contingencies, program planning and risks. This is completely normal and proper practice in the management of a project of this size," he said.

    "When completed, it will be reported to the Olympic Board.”

    London Blueprint for Football Bid

    The British government and the English Football Association could establish a bid company modeled on the London 2012 bid set-up to help secure the 2018 World Cup.

    The developments are said to be underway following FIFA’s decision this week to end its rotation system through which different continents are awarded the event.

    The English FA quickly revealed its intention to bid for the tournament with the wholehearted support of British prime minister Gordon Brown.

    “With the Olympics in 2012, possibly the Commonwealth Games in 2014, the Rugby World Cup in 2015 and the Cricket World Cup in 2019, a Football World Cup in 2018 would crown what I believe can be the greatest decade ever for British sport,” said Brown.

    England start out favorites in the bid race but can expect to face stiff competition from Russia, Holland/Belgium, China, Australia and the U.S.

    Opposition for GB Football Teams

    The British Olympic Association is pushing ahead with plans to field a football team under the British flag at London 2012, despite ongoing opposition from the Irish, Scots and Welsh.
    England's women earned a spot in Beijing based on their rank in Europe, but cannot compete in the Olympics as England because there is no England NOC, according to a FIFA ruling. (Getty Images)  

    BOA chief executive Simon Clegg confirmed this week that the NOC is pursuing its plans to enter British men’s and women’s teams at the Games – teams open to players from each of the home countries.

    The IOC has told the BOA that the host qualifying rule will apply to all team sports in London.

    But the football associations of Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales remain fiercely opposed, saying a GB team will compromise their national identities.

    Clegg told the BBC that it would be “absolutely inconceivable for us to host the world’s greatest sporting event in this country that includes as an integral part of that competition, football, our national sport, and for us not to field a team”.

    “And we will field a team and the comfort that we’ve got, the commitments that we’ve got from the IOC reinforce that aspiration,” he was quoted as saying.

    FIFA president Sepp Blatter also maintains that a GB Olympic team would not threaten the independent status of any of the associations.

    New Olympic Coaching Program

    The British Olympic Association will next week reveal details of its new coaching program for elite athletes designed to help the U.K. achieve fourth spot in the medal table at London 2012.

    Sir Clive Woodward, the BOA’s director of elite performance, will present the BOA’s Elite Performance Service for Olympic athletes and National Governing Bodies of Olympic Sports.

    BOA chief executive Simon Clegg, world class operations manager at the British Judo Association Karen Roberts, and golfer Mel Reid will be among the representatives from British sports at the event.

    Reid has been used as a template for Woodward's performance model, benefiting from expert guidance in areas such as nutrition and medical support. The aim is to roll this model out to Britain’s NGBs.

    Reported from the U.K. by Mark Bisson

    Homepage photo by Getty Images

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