Facebook, Google Boost 2012 Legacy; Olympic Route Network Concerns

(ATR) Olympic Park poised to become "tech city" ... Use of special traffic lanes up for debate ... Ground broken on ArcelorMittal Orbit ... Games construction boasts not one accident.

Cameron Touts High-Tech Games Legacy

London's 2012 Olympic Park is set to become part of a "tech city" to rival the USA's Silicon Valley under plans unveiled Thursday by British Prime Minister David Cameron.

Vodafone, Google, Facebook, Intel and McKinsey & Co are among the companies that have said they will invest in the long-term future of the area.

In a speech to high-tech business leaders and entrepreneurs in East London Thursday, Cameron also announced that the Olympic Park press and broadcast centers will live on beyond the 2012 Games as an "accelerator space" offering flexible office space, facilities and expertise.

The plans are part of the government’s program to create new jobs, diversify the economy and support sustainable economic growth.

"Right now, Silicon Valley is the leading place in the world for high-tech growth and innovation. Our ambition is to bring together the creativity and energy of Shoreditch and the incredible possibilities of the Olympic Park to help make East London one of the world’s great technology centers," Cameron said.

Cameron said the response to the "tech city" proposals from technology companies and venture capital investors had been "overwhelming".

He confirmed that the Olympic Park Legacy Company (OPLC) had agreed to an "accelerator" space for the Olympic Park, "providing office space for companies that grow out of East London and beyond".

Cameron said Cisco would establish an Innovation Center in the Olympic Park, focusing on technical excellence, while University College London and Loughborough University are to work with the OPLC to "build a bridge between academia and enterprise in the Olympic Park".

In launching the government's blueprint for the "tech city", he added: "We are today setting ourselves the ambition of making Britain the best place in the world for early stage and venture capital investment. £200 million ($320 million) for new technology and innovation centres – one of which could be in the Olympic Park."

Olympic Route Network Draws Concerns

Concerns have been raised about plans for restrictions and special traffic lanes as part of the Olympic Route Network for London 2012.

The London Assembly heard Wednesday that they may have serious knock-on effects on congestion, business and pedestrian safety.

Borough and business representatives are urging the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) to provide more detailed information about the potential effects in their areas and how they will be expected to enforce the network. They want the ODA to strike a better balance between transporting Games officials and enabling Londoners to go about their everyday lives.

Questions were raised about the size of the "Olympic family" who will be able to use the Olympic Route Network. Current proposals offer 82,000 people access to the VIP lanes, of which only 18,000are athletes and officials. The main concern is the 25,000 representatives of Games sponsors who would be allowed to use the lanes.

Val Shawcross, chair of the transport committee, said: "All spectators will be encouraged to use public transport, walk or cycleto and from events. Could some members of the Games family -- particularly sponsors -- be convinced to do the same?

"There needs to be a balance between providing the efficient transport arrangements for athletes, officials and visitors that will help deliver a successful Games, while making sure the rest of London is not brought to a standstill."

The committee will discuss their concerns with the ODA and Transport for London at a public meeting in January.

Construction Starts on ArcelorMittal Orbit

Building work started today on ArcelorMittal Orbit, the 114 meter-tall (377ft) sculpture destined to become a major attraction on the Olympic Park.

Designed by award-winning artist Anish Kapoor and leading structural designers, Cecil Balmond, it is being built between the Olympic Stadium and the Aquatics Center on the east London site.

The $36 million ArcelorMittal Orbit, which incorporates the five Olympic rings in a lattice of tubular steel, will give visitors a view of the entire Olympic Park and across London’s skyline. Visitors will be able to go up the structure in a lift and have the option of walking down the spiralling staircase.

At the ground-breaking ceremony Thursday were London Mayor Boris Johnson, Lakshmi Mittal, CEO and chairman of steel company ArcelorMittal, Anish Kapoor and chief executive of the Olympic Park Legacy Company, Andrew Altman.

When completed in March 2012, it will be Britain’s tallest sculpture.

Safety Record in Olympic Constructions

The Olympic Park construction project has achieved 15 sets of a million working hours without a reportable accident since the ODA gained possession of the site in the summer of 2007.

Around 10,000 workers are involved in building venues on the Olympic Park and the adjacent athletes' village.

An ODA spokesman said: "This is one of the largest and most challenging construction sites in Europe. With the hard work of the contractors on the Olympic Park, we have succeeded making this project one of the safest in the UK and raising the bar for the industry. This milestone is a tribute to the professionalism of the entire workforce.

"But we are not complacent and the toughest months are still ahead of us. Work on the site is now at its peak and safety will continue to be our first priority as we enter the winter months and working conditions get tougher with colder weather and reduced light."

Written by Mark Bisson.