LONDON 2012: Architects claim aquatic centre compromise was worth it
ARCHITECTS behind London 2012’s £232 million aquatics centre have defended the temporary stands that flank the impressive sweeping roof, at the official unveiling of the completed venue.
IMPRESSIVE: From the inside the London 2012 aquatic centre looks impressive - and members of the British team raved about the venue (Getty Images)
Jim Heverin, associate director of Zaha Hadid Architects, said he understood why it was necessary to add the stands and that the finished product did not clash with the original creative concept.
But former Olympic Delivery Authority boss David Higgins has labelled the venue 'pretty ugly' while the chief International Olympic Committee inspector Denis Oswald admitted the facility would be easier on the eye in legacy mode.
Viewed from almost every angle the temporary wings totally overshadow the original iconic stingray wave design - and by the time they've been dismantled and the building transformed to the original vision, the focus of the world will have already shifted to Rio.
And despite completing the venue on time, the costs of the project have massively overrun - the final figure is expected to be four-times higher than originally intended.
“We are absolutely delighted with the results – it’s sustainable and we fully bought into that. Nobody could justify size of structure to cover those stands and leave it here for no use,” said Heverin, although his company website only shows pictures of the venue in legacy mode, not how billions around the world will see it next year.
“If we hadn’t adapted this approach then this project would not have happened. It was actually in the original plans. It was just that the permanent roof went over the seats but they were always going to be temporary and dismantled.
“When the master plan was reconfigured it was clear that there wasn’t the space and there were things that could be optimised. If you don’t accept that as a challenge it will go somewhere else.
“This is what we need for legacy, to cover the pools so people can swim. In Olympics people watch others swim but afterwards people are participating and swimming themselves and we don’t need the seats for that, so they can go.”
The venue will hold 17,500 spectators during Games time but after transition will become only a 2,500 seater venue - more than enough to stage national events and the British leg of the FINA World Cup diving, probably at the expense of Ponds Forge in Sheffield.
Former world champion Tom Daley made the first dive into the pool while members of the British synchro team and double Olympic swimming medallist David Davies were also among the first to take the plunge.
Universally all raved about the venue, although those with tickets to the swimming, diving, synchro swimming and water polo finals better not suffer from vertigo if their seat is on the top row of the steeply-banked stands.
Davies, who is absent from the ongoing World Championships in Shanghai after he was sidelined for six months with fatigue, believes the venue could become a long-term home for British swimming, with next year's Olympic trials the official swim test event.
"You can imagine next year and the atmosphere with the British fans shouting for the swimmers," he said.
"It’s really quite inspirational - you walk in and you feel the adrenaline.
"It’s a fantastic venue, the best we have in Britain by miles, it’s probably taken over Sheffield which is a real favourite of the British team.
"I couldn't wait to get in and the water felt good – and I felt like I had a some oomph in my stroke."
© Sportsbeat 2011