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Zaha was two weeks from losing Aquatics Centre

Zaha Hadid came just two short weeks away from losing one of the biggest contracts in the 2012 London Olympics - the Aquatics Centre.

Two months ago, the Pritzker Prize-winner was given 14 days by the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) to get the centre's design right, after two previous attempts were ruled unacceptable.

Details of this extraordinary incident have emerged 10 days before a document revealing further aspects of the swimming complex will be released to the public by the ODA.

And the revelation comes almost a year after Olympics minister Tessa Jowell stated publicly that she had sent Hadid back to the drawing board amid false claims over spiralling costs of the scheme.

In that incident, the minister wrongly claimed that the price of the £75 million project had doubled due to 'changes in specification'.

Jowell subsequently wrote a letter of apology to Hadid following the claims (AJ 13.04.06), and the matter was dropped, with Hadid continuing to keep up a united front with Jowell's Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

But it has now emerged that the international superstar's firm was asked this summer by the ODA to refine the designs of the 20,000-seat pool complex.

Hadid's original two attempts were sent back, and she was given just two weeks to appease the Olympic body, but got it right just in time.

Since then, ODA chairman Jack Lemley has held Hadid's designs up as an example for other architects hoping to get involved in the Olympic Park development.

He said: 'I hope all of the designs put forward for the Olympic Park are as creative as those of Zaha, who has produced a magnificent scheme for the Aquatics Centre.'

Lemley's comments followed a reaffirmation of his intent to stick with design-and-build contracts elsewhere throughout the development.

He acknowledged the need for high-quality design, but was also clear the project had to stay on target and on budget.

He said: 'We intend to use all our best judgement and our experience to ensure design standards are maintained, and we want designers and contractors to engage in a meaningful way.'

by Richard Vaughan

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