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Olympics Venue Building May Change with Recyclable Basketball Arena

July 16, 2012


When the Olympic committee manages to select a city to host the Olympic Games, whether the Winter Games or Summer Games, a few things generally follow: mass celebrations, the building of anticipation among the citizens, and then a flurry of construction to ensure that all the facilities the Olympics will require are in place and ready. The recently-completed Basketball Arena in London, however, may signal something of a sea change in the way that the preparation is undertaken, and completed.

The Basketball Arena in London has 12,000 seats and a complete white exterior that, when needed, can be adapted to appear in a variety of colors thanks to an interior lighting system. It's comprised of roughly two-thirds recyclable material, and that white exterior is largely built out of PVC in 110-foot by 24-foot pieces. Its other key feature is that it's entirely temporary, and following the Olympics, will be completely torn down. The same is also said for the water polo arena, another temporary structure.

The temporary structures are undergoing something of a testing period with the London Games in a bid to decide whether or not temporary structures in general can actually stand up to the torture test that an actual Olympic Games will put on them. If so, then future Olympics hosting sites may well have a simpler, less expensive, and overall more sustainable way to accommodate Olympic events, yet still not lose out on an economic boost that they bring. Additionally, the Basketball Arena is said to be built on a rock-based foundation, so after the Olympic Games, the foundation will be used to build an 800-unit housing structure.

The need for such structures became apparent after the 2008 Games in Beijing, in which a wide variety of structures were built, but now, virtually none of them--even the iconic "Bird's Nest"--are currently being used much beyond a minimal level if at all. This wasn't limited to Beijing, either, as several former host cities had discovered they had a lot of structures on their hands that were going unused following an Olympic event. Indeed, Qatar's bid for the 2022 World Cup predominantly featured plans to build temporary structures for the event and then export them following the tournament.

Assuming these temporary structures actually work, they will likely start a whole new way of looking at the concept of Olympic Games, and the construction for them. These temporary structures will likely represent some cost savings as well, and that's always welcome, even in good economic times. The only question will be whether or not the temporary structures can actually fit the bill, and we'll find out the results soon enough. It's an experiment worth trying in any case, and hopefully, it will prove a more sustainable way to host the Olympic Games.

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Edited by Brooke Neuman