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sydney olympic games 2000          

Homebush Bay Complex 

The centerpiece of the Homebush development, and the best example of this problem, is the massive Stadium Australia, a partially roofed, multipurpose arena that seats 110,000 people. Designed by Bligh Lobb Sports Architecture, the building looks awesomely large  from within and is constructed with both current and future digital‑broadcast technol‑ogy  in mind. Dozens of speakers throughout the stands provide such concert‑quality sound that the Bee Gees used the stadiums sound system for a recent performance. Replay screens will someday be inserted into the back of every seat, and an entire television production suite will be installed inside the building. The stadium will also have its north and south seating wings removed after the games to bring it down to 80,000 seats. Excitement over this feat of building technology was dampened at athletic trials held here in February, when many runners complained that significant winds inside the stadium wreaked havoc on their performances. Whether or not sports fans care about the ordi‑nariness of the white steel, this design flaw, if not corrected, will draw atttention at the games.

 The Olympic Park Railway Station (Hassell Architects) repeats the theme with a grand curved canopy of arched steel frames flung over a sunken railway line and its platforms. Like a crawling caterpillar it moves across its site, pushed forward by the momentum of each successive truss. The effect is dramatic and, as the architects have pointed out, recalls the grand railway arcades of European stations. But the drama is checked by the banality of the material and style chosen to create its key feature.

Of the more than 20 major projects, the only building that appears to have escaped the homogenizing influence of the scaffold is the witty and elegant Dunc Gray Velodrome by Ryder SJPH Architects. A curved dome roof that recalls the most aerodynamic racing helmet youve ever seen floats above the cycling arena. It is held in place by the dreaded steel frame but completely overwhelms it with a shimmering architectural vision that mirrors the cyclists magic : suspension maintained at speed . It is a fine and memorable structure meant to be understood both as a sculptural form and as a useful building.



The Homebush Complex is an impressive achievement perhaps because of the global-village aspect of its immediately accessible architecture. The international television audience and the thousands of overseas visitors to Sydney should feel both at home in and impressed by its scale and friendliness. But there is little in these designs that should shock the spectator as either tough or challenging. This is a pity, because while few cultures produce sporting arenas of such quality and innovation for both athletes and audiences, the opportunity to innovate aesthetically has been missed.

In a strange inversion of televisions notions of reality, it is only after the arc lights have been switched off and the athletes have gone home that this river‑bound site will become something like a real built environment. Then the stadiums will be partially dismantled and brought back to a more human scale; some venues will be transformed into trade exhibition halls and commercial spaces; and the Olympic Village will become the new Sydney suburb of Newington. It is at that time that the already familiar structures of the Olympic Games will become a built environment for living, not just for broadcasting. Virginia Trioli



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