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London 2012 Olympics Basketball Arena

Wilkinson Eyre Architects have come up with the Basketball Arena, creating a temporary venue that plays within the range of one of the vastest there is for Paralympics or Olympic Games. It is also the third venue in terms of size within the Olympic Park. The construction is on the higher ground by the site’s north end and can be seen from a number of vantage points within the area of the Olympic Park.

London-2012-Olympics-Basketball-Arena-By-Wilkinson-Eyre-Architects-03-759x508 London 2012 Olympics Basketball Arena / Wilkinson Eyre Architects

© Edmund Sumner

During the Olympic Games, it will be transformed from a basketball venue to host the handball competition finals in the space of 22 hours, during which time the basketball posts will be replaced by handball goals and a field-of-play mat will be laid on the concrete floor. The seating capacity will then be reduced from 12,000 to 10,000 for wheelchair basketball, before a narrow, 12-hour interval until wheelchair rugby begins.

After the Paralympic Games the venue will be dismantled and two-thirds of its materials and components will be reused or recycled. Although taller than Tate Modern and longer than a football pitch, it was erected in only 15 months – one of the fastest constructions on the site. Its 1,000- tonne steel frame was erected in just three months.

London-2012-Olympics-Basketball-Arena-By-Wilkinson-Eyre-Architects-06-759x497 London 2012 Olympics Basketball Arena / Wilkinson Eyre Architects

© Edmund Sumner

The frame’s three types of gently arching long-span members are wrapped in 20,000m2 of recyclable white PVC fabric, which will be used as a canvas to project the Olympic rings onto at night.

The PVC fabric looks as fresh and dapper as a starched dress shirt, with bulging, diagonal-ribbed crinolene-like bays on its facades and a sharp-pleated accordian roof. Naturally, the seating livery is basketball orange and black.

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London’s Olympic bid proposed that there would be four arenas in the Olympic Park, but the revised masterplan published in 2006 reduced this to three, with the volleyball matches being moved to Earls Court Exhibition Centre. The fencing arena was also cancelled, and the fencing will now take place at ExCeL.

The Basketball Arena will have 12,000 seats for Olympic basketball and the semi-finals and finals of the Olympic handball, and 10,000 for Paralympic wheelchair basketball and wheelchair rugby. The arena will also be used as a holding area for athletes during the Opening and Closing Ceremonies of the games. Concept designs by Wilkinson Eyre Architects were agreed in June 2008 and a planning application was submitted in November 2008. It will be a temporary venue, and the largest built for any Games[2]. The possibility of subsequently deconstructing the arena and transporting it to Rio de Janeiro for the 2016 Summer Olympics was discussed, though the plan has been shelved due to doubts from some Brazilian officials about its feasibility.

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In early October 2008 it was speculated that Wembley Arena could be used as a replacement venue for the preliminary rounds of the 2012 Olympic basketball tournament instead of the Basketball Arena, thus saving up to £90 million, but in March 2009 it was confirmed that a new arena will be built in Stratford as originally proposed.

In late October 2009 it was announced that preparatory work had begun on the site and Paisley-based Barr Construction would begin building the main arena in spring 2010. The basketball arena took 15 months to build and was completed in June 2011.

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© Anthony Charlton


The Basketball Arena is one of the largest temporary venues ever used for an Olympic and Paralympic Games and will be dismantled after the Games to be reused elsewhere. Initial works on site began in October 2009, with work to erect the 1,000-tonne steel frame starting in March 2010. The venue has now been completed on budget, making it one of the quickest Olympic Park venues to finish construction.

With the ODA’s construction works completed, the venue will now be handed over to the London 2012 Organising Committee (LOCOG) to carry out overlay works to get the venue ready for the first Olympic Park test event in August – the venue will host the London International Basketball Invitational to be held from the 16th-21st August which will see six top men’s teams from around the world come to London to compete (Great Britain, Australia, China, Croatia, France and Serbia).

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© Edmund Sumner

During the 2012 Games, Basketball preliminary matches and Women’s quarter finals will be staged at the Arena, in addition to the Handball men’s quarter finals, all semi finals and medal matches. It will also host Wheelchair Basketball and Wheelchair Rugby during the Paralympic Games.

Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) Chief Executive Dennis Hone said: “Completing construction on the Basketball Arena delivers another striking Games-time venue for the Olympic Park and an innovative structure that can be re-used elsewhere after 2012. As the fourth Olympic Park venue completed and one of the quickest to finish construction, the Basketball Arena is another milestone for the Olympic Park ‘Big Build’ and a tribute to the companies from across the UK involved in its delivery.”

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© Edmund Sumner

Hugh Robertson, Minister for Sport and the Olympics, said: “Basketball is one of the most atmospheric competitions of the Games and this has been captured by the artistic design of the Arena. The speed with which this venue has been constructed is a tribute to the ODA and the architect whose design means this facility can be re-used after the Games.”

London 2012 Organising Committee Chair Seb Coe said: “Basketball is one of the most popular Olympic sports and spectators will be able to see the game played out in spectacular surroundings. It is a superb venue which will be the centre of some of the best team action during the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

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© Edmund Sumner

London Olympics Basketball Arena – Venue Information:

Venue design and facilities and design:

  • 12,000 seats – black and orange seating designed to represent the colours of a basketball
  • Venue is 35 metres high (as high as the Tate Modern) and longer than a football pitch at 115 metres long
  • 1,000-tonne steel frame wrapped in 20,000sqm of recyclable white PVC membrane, stretched over three different variations of arched panels.
  • During the Games the exterior will act as a canvas for an artistic and innovative lighting design.
  • Venue facilities including lifts, toilet blocks, corridors and VIP access rooms installed beneath venue seating frame
  • After the Games the venue will be dismantled by the contractors which built and own the temporary elements, with the option of potentially using elements of the arena at other UK and overseas events.
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  • The Basketball Arena design team was lead by Sinclair Knight Merz together with Wilkinson Eyre and KSS.
  • The venue was constructed by companies from across the UK, including.
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© Edmund Sumner

Wilkinson Eyre Architects:

In November 2007, the SKM/Wilkinson Eyre/KSS design team was appointed to design the Basketball Arena for the 2012 London Olympic and Paralympic Games. A key challenge of the project was to create a temporary building which would not only be simple to erect and sustainable in terms of its legacy once the Games are over, but which will provide a world-class sporting venue for some of the most popular Olympic events. The design, which received planning permission in March 2009, is such that two-thirds of the materials and elements within the building can be reused or recycled after the Games. As one of the three key venues on the site, the building will be home to the basketball competition, the handball finals, wheelchair basketball, wheelchair rugby and will be a holding area for athletes during the opening and closing ceremonies.

London-2012-Olympics-Basketball-Arena-By-Wilkinson-Eyre-Architects-24-759x506 London 2012 Olympics Basketball Arena / Wilkinson Eyre Architects

© Anthony Charlton

Project Data:

Project name: London 2012 Olympics Basketball Arena
Location: Olympic Park, Stratford, London, England, United Kingdom
Coordinates: 51.548603, -0.013952
Type: Arena
Capacity: 12,000
Field dimensions: Length 115 m, width 100 m, height 35 m.
Project Area: 11500 sqm
Broke ground: October 2009
Built: June 2011
Completion Year: 2012

The people:

Client / Owner / Developer: Olympic Delivery Authority / SKM
Architects: Wilkinson Eyre Architects, 33 Bowling Green Lane, London, UK
Project Team: SKM with Wilkinson Eyre Architects and KSS
Project manager: SKM
Structural engineer: SKM
Services engineer: SKM
Main contractors: Barr Construction
Text Description: © Courtesy of  Wilkinson Eyre Architects, Olympic Delivery Authority, KSS
Images: © Edmund Sumner, Olympic Delivery Authority, KSS


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London 2012 Olympics Basketball Arena / Wilkinson Eyre Architects
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