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Olympic Aquatics Centre makes a splash

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David Bond | 16:00 UK time, Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Jacques Rogge says that when he walked into the aquatics centre for the first time today it took his breath away.

"I have been in a lot of venues," he told me today, "but none like this."

Viewed from the outside the beautiful curved roof is spoiled by the huge temporary stands bolted on each side.

But walking inside the Zaha Hadid designed building gives you a totally different perspective and there is no question that the £269m venue is impressive.

Members of a synchronised swimming team form the shape of a number

Members of a synchronised swimming team form the shape of a number "1" to mark the one year countdown to the start of the London 2012 in the Aquatics Centre. Photo: Getty

So it should be considering the budget for the centre ballooned from the bid book estimate of £75m.

No one had a greater influence over the decision to make the aquatics centre the one luxury item on London's otherwise budget Olympic park than former Olympics and Culture secretary Tessa Jowell. I asked her today what she thought now it was complete: "Worth every penny," was her response.

London 2012 always planned to showcase the aquatics centre with a year to go. But finishing it in time was extremely tight. The Olympic Delivery Authority was only handed the keys by contractors Balfour Beatty last Thursday.

Rogge said he was pleased with London's planning so far. He refused to be drawn on whether it was the best prepared Games ever but compared London to Sydney with 12 months to go. Lord Coe would have taken that back in Singapore six years ago.

But he did flag up, once again, concerns over the capital's creaking transport system.

And while he and the IOC must be privately doing cartwheels, Coe clearly didn't want to get carried away by today's swimming pool hoop-la.

"There is still a year to go and the proof will be when the closing ceremony is over. But I am very happy and optimistic."


  • Comment number 1.

    Looks impressive inside, but I presume those sitting near the back can't see the seats on the other side of the pool because of that central wave ceiling? Might feel a bit weird hearing noise inside the same arena without being able to see it?

  • Comment number 2.

    It does look really impressive, but it cost £269m compared to the original estimate of £75m, is that correct? If so, that's incredible.

    Between the London Olympics and the Commonwealth games in Scotland two years later, while I'm really happy at the UK hosting these events, I'm really concerned about the cost to the country in such hard financial times.

  • Comment number 3.

    No photo shots from outside? Is that because they are worried the nickname of 'the panty-liner' might stick?

    It all looks very slick inside but doesn't anyone else think making a building shaped like a wave for a swimming pool is a bit puerile?

  • Comment number 4.

    I think it's a great design and like no other swimming pool which is what you want. Who wants to look at people on the other side of the pool anyway? Wish I had a ticket - it'll have an incredible atmosphere.

    Not sure in what context a wave is 'puerile'. I suppose when the Chinese built the Water Cube and the Bird's Nest, they were puerile too??

  • Comment number 5.

    To the person talking about the view from the back of the stands, i thought the same thing, but the view is actually still very good. You can see the whole pool and the diving pool. The only bit you might struggle to see is the top board the divers jump off.

    There's a video on the telegraphs website which shows the view from the top:

  • Comment number 6.

    The pool is beautiful and deserves every complement. But as a tax payer, I am concerned by the £269million cost vs original estimate only some 6 years ago of £75million. This begs the question whether other estimates were done in a similar manner to win the bid. If so what will be the final cost to the tax payers?

  • Comment number 7.

    The Olympic bid was fostered on a lie as to the actual cost, otherwise London would never have been awarded the Games. The bid book figure for the cost of staging the Olympics was £2.35 billion, the real and actual cost is just under £10 billion. That folks is £7 billion pounds over budget.

  • Comment number 8.

    Puerile in the normal context of meaning childish and trivial. The idea of making a swimming pool look like a wave is puerile and willful. It's the same as making an airport that looks like a plane or a museum for music in the shape of headphones. Its fatuous shape making driven by egomania.

  • Comment number 9.

    £269 million from £75 million? I ask the simple question, where did the extra £194 million come from? What sort of bidding process accepts a bid of £75 million to build something, but then lets it scale up to £269 million?

    Was the winning bid remotely credible, if it was in fact over 3 times less than the real costs .... looks more like a Ministry Of Defence contract bid than a private commercial one. Are all the other venues showing a 3.5 fold increase in the costs? If yes can we have an enquiry (at inflated costs of course).

  • Comment number 10.

    At 2, 5 and 7. Please stop with this 'cost to the taxpayer' myth. Over-budget these projects may be, but this is exactly the sort of government spending an economy needs in a recession - these projects have created jobs and will benefit the well-being of the country for years to come.

  • Comment number 11.

    No one cares what it all cost, when so many people have their fingers in the pie, why should they?

  • Comment number 12.

    "but this is exactly the sort of government spending an economy needs in a recession"

    What are you talking about? This money was spent prior to to the recession therefore helping to create the deficit.

    It also employed primarily foreign construction teams with skills that british builders don't have because they aren't trained very well.

    You could build fifty really lovely swimming pools for that money. That could mean one in every city in the country with some money left over to encourage more people to take up swimming. Instead we have to pay through the nose to have ONE incredibly expensive pool shaped like a wave with very little in place to ensure its continued use or longer term benefits to the country as a whole. Its either obscenely willful or downright scandalous.

  • Comment number 13.

    £75 million becoming £269 million is nothing short of criminal.

    I fully aprreciate that estimates may have been on the lower side of caution to aid the bidding process and that building materials plus workforce have increased significantly in price over the past 6 years, BUT, we're talking about a difference of £194 million!

    Are Lord Coe et al seriously trying to tell me that the UK based Euro millions roll over jackpot winner two weeks ago would not be able to afford to build their own version of this venue?!

    Are we all really this out of touch on what things REALLY cost that we believe this price is good value for money?

    £269 million! It's utterly ridiculous and I find it offensive that we are supposed to simply accept this was the cost.

    It stinks of corruption, mis-management and complete and utter shameless waste. I feel sickened by it all and deeply ashamed.

  • Comment number 14.

    Seb Coe is quoted above as saying:
    "There is still a year to go and the proof will be when the closing ceremony is over. But I am very happy and optimistic."

    er.... hang on Seb. Isn't this whole Olympics thing meant to be about a long term legacy rather than a two week blow out? Or have we all just been stitched up like kippers?

  • Comment number 15.

    If your were working on a building project which you claimed would cost £75 million but it ended up costing £269 million, you would be sacked!

    The pool looks great but for that much money anything would look great!
    Serious questions have to be asked about who budgeted the games and how they have failed to work within budget.

    The Olympics is as much as show/spectacle as it is a business and how are the BOA to make a lasting profit if they cannot work to a budget.

  • Comment number 16.

    Instead of worrying about the 'cost to the taxpayer' which might work out at a couple of extra pounds each :o Why don't you just appreciate the aquatics centre for what it is, a world class sporting venue. As for it being puerile, I hope the whole olmpics are the same if they meet the same standards on show here.

  • Comment number 17.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 18.

    It needs to be impressive at £270m! That's nearly 14 times as much - in real terms - for just one venue as the whole 1948 Olympics cost! An awful lot of money for a couple of holes full of water me thinks.

  • Comment number 19.

    I am amused at Tessa Jowell's reaction. Much like a former Scottish first minister when the Scottish Parliament building proved to be exponentially more expensive than first estimated. It is an indulgence few ordinary people can afford to have, because regardless of the completed splendour it still has to be paid for. And after the games this sounds like a very expensive facility for East London.

  • Comment number 20.

    AS I said on another of david's excellent blogs, why does it have to be so expensive? Sure it looks nice but a quarter of a billion spent on a fancy swimming pool? The Olympics should be about sport , not money.

  • Comment number 21.

    Here we go again - as someone who has only followed two blogs in his life - both about the Olympics in the last few days - I am both heartened and disturbed to find so many people asking the same questions - about the ridiculous costs and the incredible ( i.e. NOT credible) claims about who benefits.

    David - have you got a team of people out there asking questions about how the 2012 events have come to cost so much, who will actually benefit, and how scandalous this whole process is in 2011? The number of serious questions raised on the two blogs I followed suggests you should have.

    To repeat what I have said elsewhere, I suspect lots of us don't have a problem with the Olympics coming to the UK, but we do feel very uncomfortable (typical British understatement for 'it's a scandal, and we know it, but our reserve/compliant natures prevents us from talking about the elephant in the room...') about how much they will end up costing, and the people involved in organising things at the top.

    Again at risk of repeating myself, Google 'Bread and circuses'...

  • Comment number 22.

    Hookers_armpit - your nom de plume tells us all we need to know.

  • Comment number 23.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.


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