London dreams around strawberries and cream

Olympic Games
Last Updated 26 February 2011, 14:30 IST
London dreams around strawberries and cream

The stands are full of spectators enjoying the Olympic action on a glorious summer day with a familiar London landmark resplendent in the background.

London 2012 organisers last week published artists' impressions of how some of the yet-to-be-erected temporary facilities will look once the 'greatest show on earth' hits town next year.

Never mind the fact that British summers can be damp and drizzly -- centre court at Wimbledon has a roof for a good reason -- and forget dire warnings of airport-style security and transport congestion.

The 'overlay' vision, as organisers move into a new phase of the preparations with the '500 days to go' mark coming up next month, is strawberries and cream, picnics in the park, street parties and long, lazy summer evenings outdoors.

"We started this process two years ago and we looked at the festival nature of things," said John Barrow, a senior principal for architects and venue designers Populous.  "We looked at the Festival of Britain in 1951 and explored the delight in the innovation post-war...we also looked at the legacy this brought.

"We then explored the quintessential aspects of what makes a London event...and looking at something like Wimbledon we think that atmosphere of informality, laced with fun and festival, is really something we want to inject into London 2012," added Barrow. "It does come down to the strawberries and cream and the long summer nights. We are trying to really create that type of atmosphere, albeit on a much bigger scale."

'Overlay' refers to the work involved in creating stand-alone temporary venues, fitting out newly-built permanent structures and transforming pre-existing facilities to deliver the distinctive 'feel' of the Games.

The plans are in place, even if many temporary structures will not go up until late in the day to allow full public use of royal parks and other sites for as long as possible. Some 350 million pounds' ($568.9 million) worth of kit and equipment needs to be purchased, of which 65 million is already procured.

"We're entering into a new phase," said organising committee (LOCOG) director of venues and infrastructure James Bulley. "We've moved from the ODA (Olympic Delivery Authority) big build, the work that's been going on out in the park, four years of construction, into a new phase that is really about getting ready for the Games in terms of bringing forward the temporary event installations. LOCOG really is going live now."

The London Games will have a total of 250,000 temporary seats, as many as the last three Summer Olympics in Sydney, Athens and Beijing combined.  The strategy is in line with legacy and sustainability commitments that also enable organisers to make the most of the world-famous sites and sights the city has to offer.

"We set about a very sustainable Olympics and therefore the overlay takes much more significance because of the temporary nature of many of the facilities," said Barrow.

"The lesson from Sydney was to create a degree of fun, a degree of some of the other Olympics that was slightly lost. London is about having a party."
Lord's, the home of cricket since 1814, will be used for archery events.

Two temporary stands will flank the archers, who will fire their arrows across the wicket at targets placed in front of the futuristic media centre with the ornate Victorian pavilion behind them.

Organisers said the hallowed playing surface, which will see Test action only 11 days after the Games end, would be protected, with competitors walking around it.

The elegant, 17th century, Inigo Jones-designed Queen's House at Greenwich and the skyscrapers of Canary Wharf will be the backdrop for the equestrian arena with temporary stands on three sides like a horseshoe.

A deck will have to be erected on scaffolding to counter a drop of several metres over the terrain and produce the required level playing field, as well as to minimise the effect on the park itself.

"Sport is at the core of the overlay project but, more than that, we have focused on London as the backdrop," said Populous director Jeff Keas.

"This means ensuring wherever we can that either the historic buildings at venues like Greenwich Park or Lord's, or the iconic London skyline, remain in sight for spectators whilst creating an intimate atmosphere for the athletes." Not forgetting the strawberries and cream, of course.

(Published 26 February 2011, 14:26 IST)

Follow us on