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Plans to build Olympic fencing arena ditched

The Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) has abandoned plans for an 8,000-seat temporary fencing venue in East London’s 2012 Olympic Park.

ODA chairman John Armitt said the Games’ fencing tournament would instead be staged at ExCeL, in London’s Docklands – a move he claimed would save the ODA £70 million.

Although Armitt said the move was yet to be officially sanctioned by either the International Olympic Committee or fencing’s governing body, the Fédération Internationale d’Escrime, he claimed that confirmation was ‘a near certainty’.

In August 2007 the fencing and basketball venues were released as a joint OJEU. Wilkinson Eyre and KSS Design Group were selected from the 10-strong shortlist, which also included Grimshaw Architects, to design the basketball venue.

The same shortlist was vying to design the fencing hall.

Armitt said the weightlifting, which was to be staged in ExCeL, will now move to the Millennium Dome, and the basketball arena will fill the gap in the Olympic Park masterplan left by the fencing hall.

The ‘old’ basketball site, in the Olympic Park, will be occupied by ‘back-of-house’ facilities.

Andrew Taylor of Patel Taylor Architects, which entered a bid for the fencing arena with Bligh Voller Nield and Arup, said: ‘It’s a good decision to make use of existing buildings where we can.’

A spokesman for the British Fencing Association said the organisation was not concerned by the news: ‘In Athens we were miles away from the main stadium and in Sydney we had to be bussed in to Darling Harbour.’

The scrapping of the fencing hall leaves the Eton Manor sports complex as the sole remaining major venue awaiting a design team. David Morley Architects and Adjaye/Associates are among those on the shortlist.

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