McAlpine strikes Olympic gold with stadium deal

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The Independent Online

The competition to design and build the main 80,000-seat stadium for the London Olympics was reduced to a one-horse race yesterday amid signs of nervousness within the construction industry in the wake of the Wembley fiasco.

A consortium led by Sir Robert McAlpine, the builders of Arsenal Football Club's new Emirates Stadium, will enter into exclusive talks before the contract is awarded at the start of next year by the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA), which is responsible overseeing Games venues and infrastructure.

The ODA said it chose McAlpine because it was the only one of "several" bidders to fulfil the "prequalification criteria", which it declined to specify.

The consortium includes stadium designers HOK Sport, who also worked on the Emirates, and their architect, Rod Sheard, an expert in sports venues who worked on the Sydney Olympic stadium and designed the roof over Wimbledon's Centre Court. International engineering teams Buro Happold and M-E Engineering Inc are also part of the grouping.

The ODA had wanted as many as six rival groups bidding for the stadium, according to a public tender notice. Rachael Waring, a construction analyst at Numis Securities, blamed the lack of competition on the disastrous foray of Australian construction companies Multiplex, which has ruled itself out of Olympics projects after losing £100m on Wembley stadium. "The ODA will struggle now to attract builders to get involved in other Olympic venues. Firms don't want to risk of losing money, especially after Wembley" she said.

Last month the ODA got its retaliation in first when Jack Lemley, its chairman, said the Olympics was "not going to be a repeat of Wembley". David Higgins, the chief executive, added yesterday: "We have robust contingency plans in place should negotiations with Team McAlpine not conclude. We will also be putting in place appropriate cost controls to ensure that budgets are managed properly."

The official cost of the stadium, to be situated with the proposed Olympic park in Stratford, is £280m although Games insiders admit that inflation rates have been underestimated and the final figure may push £400m.