It’s Sochi’s turn to wow the world
This month we look forward to a new story that promises to be every bit as remarkable, in its own way, as the London Olympics has been. Today we go to Russia, and the Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games in Sochi in February 2014. Sochi’s new Fisht Olympic stadium is rising from the muddy ground of the Imeretinskaya Peninsula in a spectacular prelude to the Games in 18 months’ time.
The stadium is well under construction, and is due for completion in 2013, comfortably in advance of the Winter Olympics, an event which is hoped to be a showcase for the Russian Nation and the most stunning Winter Games in history.
As Project Director of Sochi’s new stadium, John Barrow explains that for Populous the story began back in 2005, when Russia launched its bid to hold the Winter Olympics in the Black Sea resort of Sochi.
Unusually, Sochi has a Mediterranean climate, so the combination of benign winters on the coast and the proximity of good skiing in the mountains within an hour’s drive, proved to be a winning combination.
Populous proposed a masterplan for the bid with just two centres, one for the Mountain facilities, and one for the Coastal Cluster containing the Main Olympic Stadium, Athletes’ Village, Media Centre, ice-skating and speed-skating venues.
That same masterplan has evolved over time, and it is now emerging as the centrepiece for a massive coastal development stretching for kilometres along the coast, including the new International Adler Airport, a new cruise-ship harbour, new universities, hotels, shopping centres, and commercial and residential zones.
The Olympic Park is a compact circle of indoor skating facilities, crowned by the Fisht Stadium itself.
Visible for kilometres in every direction, the iconic stadium will be a beacon and a lasting memory of the Games, long after the excitement of the Olympics has diminished.
We wanted to design a stadium which would satisfy the requirements for the Opening and Closing Ceremonies, and also the later needs of the FIFA World Cup in Russia to be held in 2018, and building on our successful experience in London, we emphasized the importance of legacy design.
Hence, the flexible capacity is paramount, flexing from 32,000 for the Olympics, to 45,000 for the FIFA World Cup, and the down to 25,000 for its ultimate use as a football and concert venue for the local community and university.
A combination of fixed and flexible seating within the amphitheatre is designed to give the stadium a sustainable future, without altering its external appearance.
Capturing views from inside to the sea in one direction, and to the mountains in the other direction, the stadium evokes memories of the gorges and valleys linking the mountain venues to the Olympic Park.
Sophisticated design studies allowed the stadium to be constructed on just two massive eccentric arches, splayed at different angles to acknowledge the individual presence of the mountains, sea and sky.
Comparisons have been made to a gigantic sea monster hauling itself up from the depths of the Black Sea on its powerful haunches, or perhaps a pair of ice hockey blades splayed to entice visitors inside.
Functionally, the arches also serve to provide access for the myriad of performers and special effects which will form an essential part of the ceremonies.
In total contrast to the powerful hockey-blade arches, the stadium will be clad in a lightweight translucent ETFE skin with soft wave patterns across its roof and flanks. Vivid illumination shows will be a principal feature of the iconic architectural and tourism strategy, particularly during the winter period.
Uniquely, the internal concourses spill out onto enormous elevated viewing terraces all around the stadium, giving spectators a panoramic view to the Olympic Park and the sea and mountains beyond.
Of course, the Olympic Cauldron and pyrotechnics displays will take pride of place during the ceremonies, so the design of the stadium anticipates this overlay requirement by unfolding views to the sky, with areas outside the stadium allocated for martialling zones.
POPULOUS as masterplanners and stadium architects, have worked in close collaboration with Botta Project Management, Buro Happold Engineers, and Russian partners MP4 and RASF, with building works carried out by ENGEOKOM for the ultimate client OLYMPISTROY.
The opportunity to work with our Russian friends on such a showcase for the nation, and to pass on what we have learnt from London has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.
I think that our project team, led by Damon Lavelle, Principal, has created a stunning new beacon for Sochi and for Russia, and I have no doubt that the Winter Games will be a great success, both during 2014 and long afterwards.