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Wembley falls to German giant

WEMBLEY

DEMOLISHING one of the UK's icons could be hard on the heart strings. But if Anthony Walsh, project manager for demolition and earthmoving contractor Griffiths McGee, is feeling sentimental, his voice does not betray it.

Now 80 per cent demolished, the stadium was found to be in a poor state some time ago.

'Our involvement goes back to July 2000, and we started on site on September 30 last year. Being a very modular structure, it has not been particularly difficult to bring down. It has 17 bays of exact same construction, so it is a repetitive process, ' he says.

Original roof trusses were removed first so as not to release the stresses. Because the roof was in 'very poor condition', sending workers to demolish upper reaches of the structure was not an option.

'Standard reaches would not get over the 22 m roof, ' says Mr Walsh.

In early 2000, the firm commissioned Goliath (or Alan the Shearer) from German plant manufacturer Liebherr - a modified 974 excavator with a 2 m shear attachment. The largest in Europe, the excavator has a reach of 38 m and was photographed by the world's press taking the first chunks out of the old stadium.

With the new stadium up to 5 m lower than the former development, 300,000 cu m of material is being excavated from the site, with 140,000 cu m removed so far.

Of that 25,000 cu m will be removed from within the stadium. Around 150 lorries a day remove material from site.

There were rumours that the base of an aborted attempt to build a copy of the Eiffel Tower in the 19th century was buried underneath the pitch, along with a broken stream train.

But these proved to be unfounded. It seems the base was blown up at the turn of the century and the steam train was presumably taken back to where it came from.

Even without these challenges, though, Mr Walsh admits that just waiting for the job to begin could be too much for some.

'We have done other huge jobs, but these cannot compare with Wembley. It will singularly take us to a higher level of recognition, ' he says. 'Over two and a half years of waiting we never lost faith.

We were always anxious to proceed.'