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Olympic Games 2012: Stadium Design

Volume 691: debated on Tuesday 1 May 2007

asked Her Majesty’s Government:

Why HOK Sport’s design for the 2012 Olympic stadium does not include a roof structure.

My Lords, no final decisions have yet been taken on the design of the Olympic stadium. The designs are currently being developed by the Team McAlpine consortium, which includes the architects HOK Sport Ltd on behalf of the Olympic Delivery Authority. The Olympic Board will consider these design proposals as soon as they are ready.

My Lords, are the Minister and Her Majesty's Government aware that there is enormous support in the country for a very successful Olympic Games but that those who manage to go to see the Games do not want to be soaked to the skin? Given, too, that the initial design had no roof cover and that a Memorandum of Understanding has already been signed with Costain for £400 million, can we be reassured that the majority of seats will be covered so that people can view this great event without getting soaked to the skin?

My Lords, the noble Lord makes a timely representation; decisions on the design are to be taken by the Olympic Board over the next two to three months. A design has been submitted with a roof for a part of the stadium; there is also considerable pressure, represented by the noble Lord, from those who hope that the stadium will be totally enclosed. However, there are costs involved as well as concern about the use to which the stadium will be put after the Olympic Games.

My Lords, does my noble friend recall that when the decision was taken 10 years ago to build the Cardiff Millennium Stadium with a retractable roof—I declare an interest as vice-chairman of the stadium company—it was for the Rugby World Cup, but with the intention that the legacy would allow the stadium to be used for a multiplicity of events once the rugby had finished? Is he aware that, with the roof, it is possible for the Millennium Stadium to stage at least six events a year, which are entirely dependent on the roof being closed and which would otherwise not come to Cardiff or, indeed, might not take place in the United Kingdom at all? Is there not a very strong case for a stadium that will be around for a long time, such as the Olympic stadium, having a roof?

My Lords, I am second to none in my admiration for the stadium in Cardiff, but it is designed to hold crowds of 60,000 and is a permanent sporting stadium with a very high level of paying public. The numbers seated by the Olympic stadium will come down from 50,000 to 25,000 after the Games. It is not intended to be a sports stadium modelled on the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff but to be much more for local use and a feature of the neighbourhood. That is bound to mean that the concept of costs and the long-term legacy is somewhat different from the outstanding sports stadia we have in this country.

My Lords, I have two points. The Cardiff stadium holds 76,000 people, not 60,000, as the Minister said. Secondly, can he assure the House that the decision on the legacy of the Olympic stadium—whether we will have an athletics stadium or a full permanent one—has been made?

Not in full detail, my Lords, which is why a decision on the nature of the stadium is significant. However, it has been decided that the stadium will not be suitable for a premier league football club, which would expect gates of 60,000 or more—I apologise for getting the figure wrong. The stadium will hold only 25,000 as a legacy for the area—that is an important conditional factor on its nature and structure. It is to be converted from an Olympic stadium and will hold 25,000 in the longer term instead of more than twice that number. That is why we need to think about the stadium in different terms from stadia at which football matches are played or our great national sporting stadia. The complex will be the legacy of the whole of the Olympic Park in that area.

My Lords, will the Minister assure us that if we are to get a stadium whose long-term usage includes athletics, we will concentrate primarily on that sport as it needs a permanent home in central London? Will he make sure that in future we do not confuse roofs with covered seating?

My Lords, I agree on the latter point, certainly. The noble Lord is right: London lacks a significant athletics stadium. Wembley is a magnificent sports stadium, but for football. This will be an athletics stadium for the Olympic Games; it will be used for field and track events plus the opening and closing ceremonies. Thereafter it will be used for athletics.

My Lords, is the Minister aware that high in Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs is to have a roof over your head?

My Lords, no one would disagree with the noble Baroness on that front, but I emphasise that those who attend sporting events do so for a rather more limited period. Sports fans through the ages have suffered considerable privations for the joy of their sport, even without a roof over their head.