Associated Press Sports
updated 7/17/2008 12:25:33 PM ET 2008-07-17T16:25:33

Construction on the Aquatics Center for the London 2012 Olympics has started two months ahead of schedule, although organizers say that the design has still to be finalized.

Britain's Olympic Delivery Authority said Thursday that work on the venue had begun with the installation of about 2,400 concrete columns in the ground for the foundations, which should be completed by the end of the year.

The venue for the swimming, diving, synchronized swimming and water polo events will contain two 50-meter pools, which London presently lacks.

The completion of the foundations is one of the ODA's 10 targets for the next 12 months, but what will go on those foundations has yet to be decided.

ODA chairman John Armitt said the venue "will undoubtedly be the iconic building on the Olympic site.'' It will hold 18,000 spectators during the 2012 Games and 6,000 when it becomes a public facility afterward.

‘Purity of design’
The plans for the main hall are finalized, except for a decision on which type of wood to clad parts of the roof, but the ODA is still mulling what form the temporary structures for the additional seating will take.

"The Aquatics Center will look better during legacy than it will during the Games because we've got to add on the extra seating capacity,'' Armitt said. "But the purity of design is in legacy and will be there for the next 50 to 100 years.''

Armitt said that there hadn't been enough time to produce complete plans for the venue, which also would have enabled the fixing of construction budgets.

"We've not had the time to design and produce a totally detailed design, which then enables you to go for a lump sum contract,'' Armitt said. "Inevitably in a situation such as the one we have here ... you are designing as you build. So as the foundations go in, you are still designing the detail of the roof.

"All very normal and that's why we have target price contracts with incentive arrangements.''

The most recent estimate of the overall cost of staging the Games is $18.7 billion, more than double what was forecast four years ago.

The ODA announced Thursday that it had met the 10 targets it set in April 2007, which included making a start on the athletes village and the digging of two huge 6-kilometer (3.7-mile) long tunnels for power cables.

Boosting athletes
As well as finishing foundation work for the Aquatics Center, the ODA's next 10 targets include the clearing of almost all of the Olympic Park site and the completion of foundations for the Olympic Stadium.

London 2012 chairman Sebastian Coe said the new facility will boost athletes in the city, highlighting the fact that diver Jessica Williams, who is set to compete in Beijing, had to commute more than 250 kilometers (160 miles) from her home in London to Sheffield to train in a suitable pool.

"Jessica shouldn't have had to have done that had we had the facilities that this city properly deserved 20 or 30 years ago,'' Coe said. "It shouldn't have taken the Games to do that, but it has and I'm delighted it's not only kicked off that legacy provision but it's also been the catalyst for regeneration.''

Citing the claim that 75 pence in every pound of the Olympic budget pays for regeneration of the disadvantaged area of east London where the Games will be staged, Coe dismissed concerns that locals are concerned at the cost of the event.

"I was born in London, I'm a Londoner,'' Coe said. "The majority of Londoners recognize that they are making a contribution to facilities that will serve their own children - and their own grandchildren and communities that for far too long have lived challenged existences - for the next 50 years.''

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