GOVERNMENT APOLOGY FOR ZAHA
Olympics minister Tessa Jowell has apologised to Zaha Hadid for public comments she made about the cost and design of the new London 2012 Olympic Aquatics Centre.
The AJ understands that the minister's department has written to Hadid withdrawing accusations, reported in the AJ in December ( ajplus 01.12.05), that blamed the architect for a 'simply unacceptable' hike in the price of the key Olympic venue.
At the time, sources close to the project believed there was little substance in the claims that the centre's £75 million budget had almost doubled 'because of a change in the specification'.
In the following weeks, rumours emerged that Hadid was considering legal action against Jowell.
However, now that the Pritzker Prize-winning architect has received a written apology, the matter is not expected to be taken any further.
The letter represents a major victory for Hadid, whose reputation was thrown into question by the adverse publicity which followed Jowell's comments.
Meanwhile, the revelations will come as yet another political embarrassment for the beleaguered Jowell, who has been under the media spotlight in recent months following allegations about her husband's financial dealings.
Designed alongside swimming pool experts S&P Architects, the new aquatics centre in east London will be able to seat 20,000 spectators and is regarded as a centrepiece of the London games.
Hadid's proposals have been backed by a number of top architects, including Richard Rogers, who surprisingly jumped to her defence when Jowell's accusations first made it into the press last year.
The co-chair of the competition panel which selected Hadid's successful pool design back in 2004, Rogers even wrote to the Guardian in January in response to claims the project had been sent back to the drawing board because of budget-busting changes.
He said: 'I wish to make clear that the winning design by Zaha Hadid Architects has not exceeded the construction costs of £75 million.
'The scheme has not changed and no further design work has been done since the competition was held in 2004.'