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How London 2012 changed construction

It’s five years to the day since the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games.

As well as turning out to be a huge sporting success for Team GB, it’s fair to say that it was a major success for the British construction industry as well.

There was a great deal of scepticism at the time as to whether the industry could deliver the venues and infrastructure required for the Olympics on time – or whether it could be done within an acceptable budget.

With the gauntlet thrown down, the industry responded.

Despite an early upward revision of the budget to make sure the legacy was being properly thought through, the venues and infrastructure were delivered well in time, and under the agreed budget.

In particular, the venues on the Olympic Park overseen by the Olympic Delivery Authority were handed over a full year before the games, on 27 July 2011.

Today we take a look back at London 2012’s construction and consider the wide-ranging impact it had on the industry.

It was, famously, the only Olympic Games ever to be delivered without any fatalities during its construction, a statistic that everyone involved in any of the projects is proud of. The accident frequency rate was also hugely impressive.

But the Games raised the bar in many other ways such as sustainability, both in environmental and social terms, with a new green space created that would leave a permanent legacy for a deprived part of London.

Its procurement, with an intelligent client working hard to make sure that contractors succeeded and, importantly, made a profit.

And let’s not forget the delivery, with a relentless focus on quality and a real drive to make sure that every site worker felt part of the bigger picture.

The list of names of those involved in the delivery who have gone on to other high-profile roles is striking. Many spoke to me about their experiences in the run-up to London 2012.

They include, among others:

  • Sir David Higgins, now chairman of HS2 and then chief executive of the ODA
  • Sir John Armitt, a member of the National Infrastructure Commission, and then chairman of the ODA
  • Lord Deighton, now chairman of Heathrow Airport and then chief executive of LOCOG, the organising committee
  • Alison Nimmo, now chief executive of the Crown Estate and then director of design and regeneration at the ODA
  • Jason Millett, now chief operating officer at Mace, and then programme director at CLM, the JV that was the ODA’s delivery partner

Shining through each conversation I had, was the pride they felt in the industry for what was achieved at London 2012, and how enjoyable it was to be part of something so big.

I was living in Australia at the time of the Games, but I remember watching the opening ceremony live and seeing Britain at its best, a time to be really proud of what can be achieved when the industry comes together.

London 2012 was a huge success for Great Britain in so many ways – including for British construction, with its effects still felt today on many other major projects.

Now, five years on, it’s a perfect time to reflect on what British construction can do at its best.

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