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JOHN BARROW

AGENDA

Ken Livingstone needn't worry.

Earlier this week, London's favourite political Rottweiler issued another of the calls to arms that are becoming his hallmark. He asked for a logistician with experience of previous Olympics to come forward to lead a central organising committee, to get London into shape in time for the 2012 games.

But even as Livingstone made his wishes plain, others were at pains to point out that the capital's athletics aspirations have been led by the best from the beginning.

John Barrow, a senior principal at Olympic masterplanners HOK Sport, will no doubt be at the vanguard of Livingstone's army of advisers, setting London off on one of the biggest periods of redevelopment in its history.

Barrow, a former head of architecture at WS Atkins, who has twice set up his own practice and emerged from the same Brisbane college as fellow HOK big gun Rod Sheard, was confident from the beginning London would be victorious.

'I have been telling people that we were going to win for some time and I don't think anyone believed me, ' he said.

'I think it's the strongest package since Atlanta. I was always confident that we could technically match up with Paris, ' he continued.

The Olympics masterplan, for which outline planning permission has been granted, represents a cross-section of Britain's best architectural talents, including HOK Sport, EDAW, Allies and Morrison and Foreign Offi ce Architects. Zaha Hadid joined the party later when she won the competition to design the aquatic centre.

The practices have spent most of their time working on the main site for the games - a 500-acre Olympic park in east London, which will include an 80,000-seat athletics stadium, a 20,000-seat aquatics centre, a velodrome and a BMX circuit.

Barrow is happy with the support the scheme has received from Westminster so far. 'I'm pleased that the government piled in with Sebastian Coe in support of the bid, ' he says.

'Now it needs to look at everything, set out the strategy.' The architect will be instrumental in setting up an interim strategy group with the other masterplanners to bridge the gap between the bid and working up towards the Olympics proper.

The Australian architect is particularly proud of this involvement, and the fact that the mistakes of previous Olympics, not to mention the delays and political wrangling which have beset Wembley, will hopefully not be repeated.

'The athletics stadium will give all spectators the perfect view, as opposed to conventional football stadiums.

It will accommodate 80,000 spectators, and will revert to accommodating 25,000 people when in 'legacy' mode after the Olympics, through the use of demountable grandstands, ' he said.

Barrow will urge for the stadium to be finished a year in advance. 'Six to seven years - which we have left before the Olympics begin - is precious little time. The whole essence of timing is critical, ' he said. 'We're currently working on the Turin Winter Olympics, which is having trouble getting itself together in time.

'But the organisation in London has been very good indeed. I don't expect it will experience the same kinds of problems, ' he added.

Last year's Athens Olympics was mired in scandal after it emerged that the Greek government made massive losses, the games costing them more than $8.5 billion (£4.8 billion), considerably more than expected. This was compounded by the fact that many of the facilities were unusable after the Paralympics finished in late 2004 and thus couldn't generate revenue to recoup the government's losses.

Barrow said: 'We don't do white elephants. We try our utmost to bring in revenue-generating facilities.' 'The stadium needs an iconic feel to it, so people want to go and see it, like the Sydney stadium, ' he continued. 'That created life and soul. You need to create the right balance.' He is keen to distance himself from Wembley, where HOK Sport was the principal architect with Fosters. 'Wembley has a very chequered history.

It wasn't to do with the design, it was more to do with the politics, ' he said.

So despite the fears - for its budget, for its security, for the possibility that it might not match up to expectations - Barrow is keen to prove to the world that the UK can come up trumps with the 2012 games.

'Focus is the way forward, ' he said. 'We now have the opportunity to show the world how to do it the UK way.'

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