Olympic stadium under construction

Olympics Watch - the Media Complex

E&T on the engineering of the Olympics Media Press Centre and the International Broadcast Centre.

Some 6,000 officials will be required to adjudicate around 15,000 athletes in all events at the 2012 Olympic Games. But the largest single group at the London Olympiad will be the 20,000 broadcasters, journalists and photographers of the world's media.

Without them, the readers, listeners and viewers will not share the elation of the victor, or marvel at the arc of the jumper or hear the grunts of the hammer thrower. Their importance is recognised by Lord Coe, chairman of the London 2012 Organising Committee: 'While the focus of the world will be on the sporting venues in 2012, the International Broadcast Centre will be a vital, yet mostly unseen part of the Games-time operations, pumping out hundreds of thousands of hours of the sporting action around the world.'

Accordingly, a whole section in the north-west part of the Olympic Park has been devoted to the members of the media. They have their own street there, too, to cater for all their needs. Fittingly, to match their importance, they have the biggest buildings.

Main Press Centre

This four-storey building, comprising 27,600m2 of 'green' office space, will be home for 5,600 journalists and photographers for the Olympic and Paralympic Games. It has space for lots of functions - five media conference rooms for 1,140 people; a main conference room for 700 people as well as 50 broadcast cameras; 100 photographers and nine simultaneous translation booths. Some 300 photographers can snap away in a photographers' work room at the same time.

The main press room will have 100 workstations in a 100mx30m area. There will be 150 private offices for agencies and newspaper organisations to rent, some big enough for 100 staff. They will also have a dedicated Internet cafe, a TV viewing room, a results distribution centre, a camera repair and loan area, help desks and support functions.

The authorities are always conscious of the legacy, and consequently the press centre can be converted for a single tenant in the whole building or on each floor, or multiple tenants on each floor. A media-transport mall with a coach drop-off, car parking and accreditation and security screening during the Games will provide car parking for tenants after 2012.

International Broadcast Centre

This is bigger, at 52,000m2. Its 4,500t steel frame is 27m long, 104m wide and 21m tall. Putting on the 27,000m2 roof has been a complex process. The roof is made of strips of Corus Colorcoat prefinished steel with a preservative plastisol coating. John Dunnington, marketing manager of Euroclad, says the 77m-long roof strips had to be craned up on site and rolled onto the roof substructure. The sheets are secured to the roof by a self-tapping fixing, which goes through the profile and into steel purlins, which are attached to the main steelwork. Subsequent sheets clip over the previous one, achieving a hidden fixing.

Inside will be 55,000m2 of studio space in two 8-10m-high floors with a temporary gantry for technical equipment. There will be five floors at the front of the building for 8,000m2 of office space. These will be constructed so that they can be reconfigured after the Games into separate units.

The first impression of the Media Complex is of big, grey buildings. Not very inspiring. The architects realised this and knew they needed the lift of colour, so different colour panels have been fixed to the walls. Cladding, they say, has the ability to transform buildings and bring them to life.

Olympic Broadcasting Services

The controlling agency for the IBC is the Olympic Broadcasting Service (OBS). All television and radio broadcasting signals for the Games pass through the IBC under the direction of the OBS. More than 20,000 broadcasters will be working there during the Games with up to 8,000 working together at peak times. Their programmes will be transmitted to the world through dishes in the nearby Satellite Farm of approximately 5,000m2.

The OBS provides all video and audio signals to the IBC, which are then distributed to the studios of the Rights Holding Broadcasters (RHBs) - the organisations that have been awarded broadcasting rights. The RHBs can add their own presentation and production systems. The OBS is also responsible for the layout, design, construction and fitting out of the broadcast areas, having consulted the RHBs for their requirements. There will also be a Contribution, Distribution and Transmission Centre, Commentary Switching Centre, VTR Archives and Logging Area, Production Control, and a Broadcast Information Office. As for outside broadcasting, the OBS hope to provide similar facilities as it did in Beijing, around 60 outside broadcast vans and 1,000 cameras.

Matt Mason of the OBS says they learnt much from Beijing where the IBC tried to fit an operation into a building designed for several purposes. "The beauty of having the factors of an IBC being considered in the actual design process of the building has meant huge economies of effort and an increase in workable size. The easiest way to describe the benefit is that the part of the building that contained the IBC in Beijing was 30 per cent bigger than the exterior of the London building, and yet there will be actually more interior floor space available to the broadcast operation in 2012."

Transmission

Television viewers should be in for a treat, able to see pictures in a high-definition format. Roger Mosey, the BBC's director for London 2012 promises bigger reach, more hours and some of it will be in 3D and Super HD. "We could capture some of the Games in 3D. Nobody would expect the Games of 2012 to be comprehensively in 3D because the technology will be nothing like widespread enough; but it would be a shame not to have any images of London that were part of an experiment with what will be one of the next big waves of change. The Olympic Stadium may only exist in its full 80,000+ capacity for a relatively short period. Not to have that at all in 3D would be, at the very least, a major gap in the archive.

"Similarly, Super HD. There won't be a set in your living room by 2012, but there could be a limited number of cameras and big screens that will give us a taste of the future - and that could give a major boost to technologists and people thinking of tomorrow."

The Media High Street

The two Centres are joined by a High Street, 200m long. There, journalists will able to find everything they need. There will be banks, newsagents, travel agents, a post office, a hairdresser, a general store, a bar, a gym and a temporary Conference Room for 800 people. The strip of one-storey buildings faces the canal and can be separated into 'mews' accommodation for the Legacy. To meet green building regulations, there will be a 'brown roof' of gravel and moss to encourage insects, invertebrates and habitats for more than 100 bird and bat boxes. This is also the location of the car park, security area and the 12,000m2 catering village, which will serve 50,000 meals in the course of a 24-hour day.

Legacy

The £334m (latest estimate) Media Complex could become the white elephant in the Olympic Park after the Games. The hope is that it can be converted into a vast, mixed-use employment space, together with some residential accommodation. The huge buildings have potential but as yet no firm bids have been received.

The elected Mayor of Hackney Council, Jules Pipe, however, is hopeful. "The IBC and MPC for 2012 in Hackney will provide permanent space after the Games, allowing the digital, creative and media industries the space they need to expand and create high quality jobs." 

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