Roundtable: Legacy and Temporary Overlay

Following the successful deployment of temporary venues at London 2012, MEI asks key industry experts how temporary overlay can be used as part of legacy and sustainability planning by major events organisers…..

Tom Jones, principal, Populous:

“One of the biggest challenges for major events organisers is to find ways of accommodating large-scale venues that cater for the huge demand for tickets by spectators, but which avoid leaving ‘white elephants’ behind after the event has taken place.

When Populous started discussions with the organisers of the London 2012 bid in 2003, we were keen to exploit the range of sporting venues that already existed in London, even if some of these would require modification to host Olympic sport. We then looked closely at the business case for providing new venues where there was obvious demand for sports such as athletics and cycling, but this then left a significant number of venues that were proposed to be accommodated in temporary overlay venues.

London 2012 proposed to utilise 250,000 temporary seats as part of its hosting strategy, to ensure that there would be no ‘white elephants’ left after the Games and to create a more sustainable approach to the hosting of major events. This was equivalent to the amount of temporary overlay used in the last three Olympic Games combined and would allow permanent venues to be used where there was a genuine legacy demand.

Temporary overlay can also be used to provide flexibility in accommodating sport in areas where permanent venues would not be permitted, such as the Equestrian Arena in the World Heritage site of Greenwich Park, or the Beach Volleyball Arena in the historic setting of Horse Guards Parade. It can also give greater flexibility in build time – such as the six weeks that were permitted for the construction of the 15,000 seat Beach Volleyball Arena – or the resumption of Test Match cricket at Lords just two weeks after the hosting of Olympic Archery.

The lessons learned from the London Games are now being applied by Populous in our designs for other major events, such as the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games, Nanjing 2014 Youth Olympic Games and the Incheon 2014 Asian Games.”

Giles Stanford, director, Icon:

“The flexibility, experience, innovation and resource now available to major event organisers will in effect provide any facility desired by an organising committee. Overlay is the combination of operations and design and the biggest benefit of overlay is cost saving, flexibility and success.

London 2012 proved the versatility, skill and ambition of the event industry. To many, temporary overlay is the cornerstone of the events industry; this is what we do year after year. The scale of investment and subsequent highly successful outcome in London now means that major event organisers have an incredible inventory of equipment, ideas and skills available to fulfil their ambitions and match their imagination.

The combination of a ‘can-do’ attitude and a willingness to invest means that suppliers will invest in equipment that is modular, transportable and re-useable. This flexibility has transferred the key ‘headache’ from the event organiser to the building owner i.e. what to do with it after the event?

The major events industry will develop the through life use of all the equipment, global organisers are aware of the possibilities and suppliers will see constant demand to develop their product.

A temporary solution is not always the cheapest for the immediate event, but without any legacy use the eventual costs of a permanent solution will escalate. For the suppliers to give the organising committee the best legacy solution the OC must engage with the industry. Practical industry knowledge understands what is possible and available or what is worth investing in. An organising committee is focusing on their event; the industry is looking at the next five to 10 events.

The overlay business model is designed on the re-use of equipment. This ensures a legacy use for the equipment and a sustainable solution for the event.”

Craig Tatton, managing director, UK Construction, ISG:

“The role of temporary overlay in the successful staging of a major event could not have been given a greater stage than at London 2012. To put the scale of the overlay operation in context, London 2012 utilised more temporary infrastructure than the Beijing, Athens and Sydney games combined – comprising 31 competition venues and 120 associated sites across the UK. In all, ISG managed the largest deployment of temporary overlay in the event’s history.

From the very outset, legacy was a key factor shaping planning decisions for London 2012, to avoid the construction of permanent facilities that would see little use post-Games. Every Games needs its iconic venues and London certainly delivered in this respect with the exquisite Velodrome and the Aquatics Centre amongst the six purpose-built permanent structures. Each of these venues was designed specifically to provide a long sporting legacy following the completion of the final Paralympic event. But of the other 31 competition venues, it is perhaps less well known that these facilities were constructed in less than six months – either from scratch or by modifying existing venues.

This was the enormous value of temporary overlay at London 2012 – the ability to quickly develop world class sporting venues that could then be dismantled and re-used within the UK, as well as to stage events across the world. This elegant and sustainable solution delivered outstanding venues in some of London’s most iconic landmarks, Horse Guards Parade, Greenwich Park and the Royal Artillery Barracks. The location of these venues and accommodation for elite athletes was also carefully planned to minimise travel time to and from venues - again a key sustainable aspect of the overlay strategy.

London 2012 is a fine showcase for how expertly managed temporary overlay can not only drive the sustainable agenda of a major global sporting event but also deliver the vision for a positive legacy. It is hard to imagine that the successful staging of London 2012 will not provide some form of template for organisers of future global events and it is this legacy that is perhaps the most enduring aspect of the summer Games.”

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