sport

Olympic Park handed over

The transformation of the Olympic Park has moved into full gear after being handed over to the London Legacy Development Corporation.

The shell of the temporary seats at the London 2012 Aquatics Centre was stripped away on Tuesday as the 292million transformation of the Olympic Park kicked into gear.

It marked the handover of the venue in Stratford, east London, from the London 2012 organisers who staged the Games to the London Legacy Development Corporation, which is charged with securing the site's economic future.

Workmen moved back on to the site soon after the last firework popped at the closing ceremony of the London 2012 Paralympics in September.

Power cables, generators and other materials and utilities including 165,000 square metres (1.776 million square feet) of tents, 140 kilometres (87 miles) of fencing, 240 kilometres (150 miles) of barriers and 100,000 square metres (1.076 million square feet) of temporary sports surfaces needed to stage the Games have been removed.

The BMX stands, the Riverbank Arena and the Olympic Stadium wrap have been removed.

The water polo venue, the Basketball Arena and Riverside Arena have already been dismantled and are to be removed.

Signs, media facilities, fencing, toilets and concession areas, workforce areas and medical tents have been removed.

The deconstruction programme, which will see the site reopen in phases from July 27 next year as the newly-named Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, has already changed the face of the venue.

A neighbourhood of about 850 homes, to be known as Chobham Manor, is to be built where the Basketball Arena once stood.

A target date of next autumn has been set for the opening of this site as the park's first neighbourhood.

The LLDC must also connect the park to the surrounding area with new roads and pathways.

At its peak, around 1,000 construction workers are set to work at the park during the transformation project.

To mark the handover, industrial abseiler Vicki Tough took down the last strip of the shell of the seating used on the east wing of the Zaha Hadid-designed Aquatic Centre.

So far, all 17,500 seats have been removed as workers prepare to replace temporary stands on either side of the building with glass windows.

Operator GLL will then help to fit out the venue as a public leisure centre.

Colin Naish, LLDC executive director of infrastructure, said: "Taking control of the park today is another major milestone and in only eight months' time the park will begin to re-open.

"Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park will be home to some of the best sporting and entertainment venues in the world, and will be a vibrant destination for people to live, work, visit and enjoy."

The whole park is set to open by spring 2014 but LLDC chief executive Dennis Hone has said the amount of work needed to convert the Olympic Stadium means it may not reopen until August 2015 at the earliest, and possibly not until August 2016.

The LLDC is exploring various design options to convert the stadium to meet the specifications of the four bidders in the running to use the venue, according to Hone.

The most complex options are unlikely to be completed until the start of the football season in August 2016, four years after the 2012 Games.

Changes needed across the park include reworking around 9.5km (5.9 miles) of the road network put in place for the Games along with 30 bridges and underpasses to create new footways and cycle paths.

A 1.6km (1 mile) outdoor road cycle circuit which will cross the River Lea will be added to help form the Lee Valley VeloPark.

The velodrome, scene of so many Team GB and ParalympicsGB successes at London 2012, will be the centrepiece but mountain bike trails have also been earmarked and the BMX track is to be regraded for public use.

Eton Manor, which hosted the Paralympic wheelchair tennis competition and warm-up swimming pools during the Games, is to become a new sports facility called Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre.

The 2015 European Hockey Championships are to be staged there and a bid is in to host the 2014/16 ITF Wheelchair Tennis Masters Championship.

From the outside, the Copper Box, which hosted handball during the Olympic Games and goalball during the Paralympic Games, will look the same when the park eventually reopens. It is to be turned into a public leisure centre, capable of hosting community sports, competitions, cultural and business events, with a capacity of around 7,500.

The giant ArcelorMittal Orbit tower will not need any work. It will be a visitor attraction with views across London from the two glass-enclosed platforms.

London 2012 venues and infrastructure director James Bulley said: "We began our work straight after the Games to transform the venues, parklands and facilities in the Olympic Park and remove temporary infrastructure as quickly as we could.

"We have provided a platform for the Legacy Corporation (LLDC) to continue transforming the park into a park for future generations."