Olympic Aquatic Preview

photo of Olympic pool in London
AP Photo/Ben Stansall

photo of the Aquatics Centre

photo by Anthony Charlton

The eyes of the world will be on London in late July, as the games of the 30th Olympiad get underway. Of particular interest for the aquatics industry will be the swimming and diving events and the magnificent Aquatics Centre constructed for them in the city's East End.

This building is a stunning permanent venue located near the center of the 500-acre Olympic grounds. It contains 3 pools: a 50-meter warm-up pool, a 50-meter competition pool, and a 25-meter diving pool. These state of the art showcases will host 192 events — everything from the 100-meter free to synchronized swimming.

Construction of a world-class Olympic natatorium such as this one, worthy of the planet's best athletes, is a quadrennial challenge; this one was met in part by Adrain Balfour, the chairman and president of P-cubed, a London based project management company, and building architect Zaha Hadid, and the pair put special emphasis on earth-friendly design.

The Aquatics Centre was built with the dual imperatives of sustainability and reliance on renewable energy. The design target was a 40 percent reduction in water use, and and overall water efficiency of 90 percent, which includes the use of recycled water.

Connected to the sides of the Aquatics Centre are two temporary structures that will provide seating for an extra 25,000 people during the Games. These grandstands will then be dismantled when the Olympics come to a close, leaving Hadid's masterpiece as a center for a new community.

Another temporary feature is the water polo arena. It was thought unlikely that this arena would have a practical use after the Games were over, so it was built in a way that it could be taken apart and reassembled for the 2016 Summer Games in Rio.

Balfour's goal through the entire construction of the 2012 Olympic grounds was to keep things affordable, practical, magnificent, and reusable.

"We wanted to make sure the grounds are a flagship for design," Balfour says. "We wanted to show what is possible if design is done correctly."

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