Work began today to remove the floodlight paddles on Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park’s Stadium and transform it into a year round multi-use venue delivering a lasting sporting, cultural and community legacy in east London.

All 14 of the floodlight paddles which weigh 500 tonnes in total are being removed so a new roof – twice the size of the original at around 45,000sq metres – can be built.  At 84 metres at its deepest point it will be the longest cantilevered roof in the world and will cover every seat in the Stadium and improve the acoustics and spectator experience for football matches, other sporting events and concerts.

Once the roof is in place new floodlights suitable for a multi-use venue will be installed. These will be a fully integrated part of the new roof and will incorporate the existing lighting system. Anew computer generated image showing how the new floodlights will retain the look of the iconic triangular design made famous during the 2012 Games was published today.

Work will be completed in spring 2015 ahead of the Rugby World Cup matches taking place in the Stadium later that year.

The new roof, along with new retractable seating in the lower bowl, are key to ensuring the Stadium can be used throughout the year to host a range of events.  The roof will help protect spectators from the elements and an innovative seating solution allows close pitch side views for football, rugby and other pitch sports while retaining an international class running track for use every summer.

As part of its multi-use legacy plans the Stadium will host five matches during the 2015 Rugby World Cup and will be the permanent home of West Ham United Football Club from 2016. The Stadium will also become the new national competition stadium for athletics in the UK hosting regional and national age group championships, as well as elite international events including the annual IAAF Diamond League meeting. The Stadium will be used for other sporting, cultural and community events as well as a range of community benefits for local residents.

The Stadium is a key part of wider plans for Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park which will see 6,800 homes built across five neighbourhoods and the creation of over 9,000 jobs.

Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, said: ‘The transformation of London’s Olympic stadium into a stunning all year round, multi-purpose venue is another important milestone in our pledge to create a long lasting legacy for the capital as a result of the 2012 Games. This is a legacy that on Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park alone is set to deliver thousands of new homes and jobs for Londoners.’

London Legacy Development Corporation Chief Executive, Dennis Hone, said: “We are on track to deliver a fantastic world class venue that can be used year round to host a whole range of sporting, cultural and community events. The Stadium will be a truly remarkable legacy here in east London. The floodlights are much loved following the incredible 2012 Games so it’s great we can retain their iconic triangular style as a backdrop to top sporting action and other events.”

Mayor of Newham, Sir Robin Wales, said: “This is an important milestone in transforming the Stadium into one of London and the nation’s premier destination venues and a home for sport and entertainment for years to come. Newham is committed to ensuring a lasting legacy for the Stadium that will enable us to support residents into jobs in such an inspirational place, provide tickets to big events as a reward for those who put something back into our community, and fire the ambition of our young people to take up sport.”

West Ham United Vice-Chairman, Karren Brady, said: “This marks a key milestone in the stunning transformation of the Olympic Stadium, to a spectacular UEFA Category four football stadium, capable of hosting football’s most elite competitions.

“The roof is a truly phenomenal design that will enhance the iconic status of this sporting arena.  Most significantly for us at West Ham, it will help to lock in the world-famous atmosphere that our supporters create when we play at home. There will also be an innovative seating solution that will bring fans closer to the pitch, new hospitality areas and a bespoke ticket office and club shop.

“We’re wholly committed to delivering a state-of-the-art home for West Ham United by 2016 that will honour the Olympic legacy pledge. Today represents another significant step toward that hugely exciting goal.”

British Athletics Chairman, Ed Warner, said: “Under its iconic lights, the Stadium at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park played its part in the creation of some unforgettable memories, reigniting the nation’s passion for athletics. Not only was the Stadium at the centre of the greatest Games, but this year it played a pivotal role in the nation’s one year celebrations, as over 180,000 athletics fans flocked to Stratford for three days of world class athletics at the Sainsbury’s Anniversary Games.

“As the lights come down, our attention turns towards the future and the first ever back-to-back IAAF and IPC World Championships in 2017. I look forward to the return of world class athletics to the redeveloped Olympic Stadium in a couple of years time and am sure that it will prove an iconic venue for athletics in Britain for decades to come.”

Key facts:

  • The 14 floodlight towers weigh 34 tonnes and contain an average of 35 lamps.
  • Before the towers are removed temporary cables are strung across the field of play linking opposite towers to form a spider’s web of cables to maintain the stability of the towers once the circumferential cables are disconnected.
  • Once this cable net is installed the floodlights can be removed in pairs. Each pair of lighting towers is lifted and lowered to the ground using crawler cranes with 600 tonnes lifting capacity. The lamps are then removed and the towers dismantled.
  • Balfour Beatty are carrying out the work using specialist company Pfeifer. A team of around twenty abseilers will be erecting all the temporary cables and removing the floodlights.
  • Work to construct the new 45,000sq metres roof begins in the spring. It will be completed by spring 2015 when final preparations for the Rugby World Cup will take place including installing concessions, toilets, turnstiles and hospitality areas.
  • While building work is taking place the running track is protected by a 750mm deep ‘mat’ of recycled concrete which is designed to support all the lifting activities. Once work on the new roof is complete a new pitch will be laid for the five Rugby World Cup matches taking place in the Stadium between September and October 2015.
  • Following the Rugby World Cup, final work will be carried out to prepare the Stadium for its long term tenants West Ham United FC and UK Athletics.
  • New retractable seating will be installed so the lower bowl can be protracted and retracted depending on the type of event taking place allowing closer pitch side football views while retaining an international class running track. These will be in place ahead of the football season, domestic athletics championships and Diamond League events taking place in the summer of 2016.
  • The Stadium will host the 2017 IAAF World Athletics Championships and IPC Athletics World Championships – the first time these prestigious global events have been staged in the same venue in the same year.