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THE WORK BEFORE THE GAMES

AGENDA

David Higgins, the newly appointed Australian boss of Britain's Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA), is nothing if not on-message.

But through the sea of spin-doctored answers, it is not difficult to see a man of extraordinary efficiency and terrifying precision.

He clearly has not one iota of doubt that the 2012 London Olympics will be delivered both on time and on budget.

And the evidence placed before the press - and, indirectly, the general public - supports this conviction.

At the beginning of this week, Higgins and his famous colleague Sebastian Coe called yet another press conference.

Prior to the presentation, it was entirely unclear what was going to be revealed to the gathered hacks, but what transpired was a fine example of Higgins' technique.

Three significant but unglamorous changes to Edaw's masterplan, developed with Allies and Morrison, Foreign Offi ce Architects and HOK Sport, were unveiled to a distinctly underwhelmed group of national journalists.

What? No fireworks?

These are not groundbreaking changes to the Olympic Park. Neither are they going to make national headlines. But they are integral to how the games are delivered and how they are going to knit into the surrounding urban fabric.

The first alteration to the masterplan is the ODA's decision to make more of an effort to integrate the massive Stratford City scheme - by Arup Associates and Fletcher Priest - with the Olympic Park itself. This will be achieved by turning a large chunk of the Stratford scheme, a private development, into the majority of the Olympic Village, the home to the athletes while they are in town.

This can clearly be seen as a pragmatic approach to planning from Higgins. Not only will this mean that the village can be built earlier, because Stratford City has outline planning already, but it also brings to an end a dispute that threatened the masterplan itself just weeks after the bid was won.

Developed entirely separately from the Olympics, the vast Stratford City proposals are planned for a site immediately adjacent to the park's boundaries as they were fi rst proposed. In the immediate aftermath of winning the bid, there were clearly those in the London team who believed that they needed some of this site to make a success of the masterplan. Perhaps unwisely, this group then started making noises about a compulsory purchase order (CPO) being issued for the site, a move that the Stratford developer, the ever-combative Stanhope, vowed to fi ght.

But now, by bringing the privately developed Stratford plans into the Olympic proposals - a move that will have been achieved through skilful negotiations - the threat of this row escalating into an embarrassing incident has clearly been averted.

Undoubtedly this was a crafty policy shift from Higgins - it was never going to make sense to have the two developments going ahead in parallel while also separated.

The second change to the masterplan relates to the other side - the west boundary - of the park. Original plans for Fish Island, an area of wasteland scattered with small businesses, saw a lot of the land being converted into vehicle parking for the games.

This would have required nearly one-third of the total number of CPOs used for the entire Games. Instead, the new plans will see almost all the parking which will be needed for the event being provided by a huge multi-storey car park which is already in the plans for, you've guessed it, Stratford City.

Furthermore, leaving the existing businesses on Fish Island well alone will have a significant impact on the number of planning hurdles required before proper construction can get under way - the kind of bureaucratic simplification that will please Higgins in his crusade to deliver the games.

In addition, it is likely to make for an interesting landscape juxtaposition when the Olympic torch is finally lit - there is now every chance that some of the semi-desolate, post-industrial landscape of the Lea Valley could have a direct border with the brand-spanking new Olympic zone. This is not necessarily a bad thing.

The final significant change unveiled on Monday was a plan to move the site of the vast Media Centre from a plot on Pudding Mill Lane, on the southern outskirts of the park, to a site slap bang in the middle of it. The least interesting of the alterations, this is apparently so as to improve views of the park itself and the London skyline for the thousands of hacks.

Also, terrorism has become a more pressing concern in recent months, and the ODA insists that this move will increase security for the international press corps.

All these masterplan changes have the hallmark of David Higgins and his understanding of bureaucratic minutiae. This enthusiasm for detail will certainly increase the chances of the park actually being delivered, but it will also make every Olympics press conference between now and 2012 exponentially more dull.

Ah well. You win some, you lose some.

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