The London Olympics


Duration:7 years


Country: London, UK

What did this project achieve?

Regenerate deprived area of London and stage the 2012 Olympic/Paralympic Games

The London Olympic and Paralympic Games was a ‘mega project’ - a once in a generation event, involving around 80,000 people on the construction alone.

London beat Madrid, New York, Moscow and favourites Paris in 2005 to win the games. The next 7 years saw a regeneration programme involving everything from central government departments and local councils to UK Sport and Sport England.

The project transformed Stratford - a run-down area of east London - into a 2.5 km2 Olympic Park with facilities including an athletics stadium, aquatics centre, velodrome and BMX track.

Difference the Olympics infrastructure has made

The games generated an estimated £14.2bn of trade and investments for the UK economy between 2012 and 2014.

The creation of new infrastructure, venues, community areas, shopping centres and parkland benefited the local community and provided a big boost to the area, both socially and in economic terms.

A poll for the BBC in 2013 found that two thirds of the British public thought the Olympics were worth the £8.77bn spent on them.

How the Olympics was built

The overall roadmap for the games was 2 years planning, 4 years building and 1 year testing.

Engineers began by clearing the land for construction. This included demolishing around 220 buildings, cleaning contaminated soil and burying overhead power lines underground.

Clearing the land was a major challenge: not only had the area been used as a rubbish dump for over 150 years but there was a danger of unexploded bombs dropped during World War 2.

Existing waterways also had to be cleared. Over 30,000 tonnes of silt, gravel and rubbish were dredged from the rivers. Most of this was recycled or used for construction.

The waterways also played a part in construction – engineers used them to transport materials to and from the Olympic site.

The project also saw engineers extending the East London overground line. This was the biggest piece of transport construction in London since the underground’s Jubilee line was extended south in 1999.

A total of 10 new rail lines were laid to get athletes and spectators to the Olympic Park.

As well as permanent structures such as the athletics stadium, there were temporary sites, dismantled after the games. These included basketball and water polo arenas and a shooting venue.


I didn’t bid for the Olympics because I wanted three weeks of sport…I bid for the Olympics [as] the only way to get the billions of pounds out of the government to develop the East End.

Ken Livingston

Mayor of London, 2000-2008

Fascinating facts

Construction of the Olympic Park saw 220 buildings demolished and 2.3 million m3 of soil excavated.

250 acres of new parkland were laid out with 8.35km of waterways dug in and around the park.

4 Iron Age skeletons were found during excavations.

30 new bridges were built along with 11 residential blocks and 2,818 new homes in the Olympic Village.

90% of materials left over from construction, demolition and excavation were reused or recycled onsite.

People who made it happen

  • Ken Livingston, Mayor of London, led the bid for the games
  • Sir John Armitt, chair of the Olympic Delivery Authority and former ICE President
  • Main contractor Olympic Stadium: Sir Robert McAlpine. Architects: Populous
  • Others: Transport for London, Network Rail and the Environment Agency

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