Aquatics Center opens to complete London 2012's big five
Jul 26, 2011, 11:38 p.m.
By Martyn Herman
LONDON (Reuters) - Five years after the earth-movers began leveling the bleak, puddle-strewn industrial landscape just east from the City's financial heartland the wave-shaped Aquatics Center became the fifth and final permanent venue to be completed in London's Olympic Park on Tuesday.
With exactly a year to go until the start of London's third summer Games, the 2.5 square kilometer park in working class Stratford, one of Britain's most ambitious and costly urban renewal projects, now boasts all its main structures that will stage next year's sporting drama.
The Aquatics Center, which will officially open its doors on Wednesday, joins the towering Olympic Stadium, the sleek-looking Velodrome, the multi-use handball arena and the enormous International Broadcast Center (IBC) which have changed the skyline of London's eastern approaches.
Basketball's gleaming white 12,000-seat rectangular venue is also ready for use, although despite its imposing size it will be dismantled after the Games.
In a handy piece of synchronization British diving hopeful Tom Daley will plunge off the boards on Wednesday to ripple the waters for the first time as the country also celebrates the start of the one-year countdown to the world's biggest festival of sport with a series of events.
Even a two-month delay in completing the 268 million pounds Aquatics Center, it seems, has its advantages.
"Marking the one year to go, by diving in the Aquatics Center is an incredible honor," Daley said. "Only a few years ago, this was a distant dream."
The iconic Aquatics Center, which houses two 50m pools and a diving pool and can seat 17,500 spectators during the Games, came in over budget and also missed its completion date because of complications over its roof design and heating systems.
There are also concerns about its long-term viability and the thousands with tickets for the swimming events next year might be slightly underwhelmed by the "bolt-on" temporary stands which rather diminish the striking stingray concept envisaged by Iraq-born architect Zaha Hadid.
While it's true value to Londoners can only be gauged in the years after memories of next year's gala have faded, its completion marks the end of an involved construction phase which has turned an unloved backwater of east London into a modern, compact sporting district which has won plaudits from International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Jacques Rogge.
The cosmetics are still to be applied, such as the greening of the park with thousands of trees and plants, temporary venues constructed, and the athletes Village to be fitted out, but London 2012 chief Sebastian Coe said the handover of the sixth main building project on the Park with a year still remaining was a cause for pride.
"With construction now complete on the Aquatics Center, we are another step closer to the spectacular Olympic Park which will be host to world class sport in 2012," Coe said.
"After the Games, the venue will become a much-needed swimming facility for London with community use at its heart, epitomizing the spirit of London's bid.