Social Science blog

23 February 2011


The London 2012 velodrome has garnered a huge amount of publicity this week. Sir Chris Hoy in a BBC interview extols it as a ‘gladiatorial arena’ and wonders what the sound of 6000 excited spectators will be like. It has to be said that no team deserves a state-of-the-art stadium more than the British cyclists, whose medal haul at the Beijing Olympics easily outshone that of any other country’s team. The stadium has had rave reviews in the architectural press too, and it certainly looks impressive, with its elegantly curved roof (it’s been nicknamed the ‘Pringle’ already!).

 Designing an Olympic stadium must be one of the most highly sought after of architectural commissions. The high visibility of the project, the chance to indulge in a flight of the imagination, the ample budget; all these things potentially offer huge rewards. A number of fascinating books have been written about Olympic buildings (listed below).

 For one Olympic velodrome, the outlook hasn’t been so rosy. The Herne Hill Velodrome – just round the corner from where I live, and the scene of the London 1948 cycling events - has launched an appeal for support in order to preserve this fine old venue, which dates from 1891. The stadium has been in use almost continually since then, and serves as a resource, and an inspiration, for amateurs of all ages. Restoring its grandstand and upgrading the track would provide benefits for riders in the vicinity, including disabled cyclists, and its campaign has been supported by a number of influential groups and individuals.

 It seems to me that the London 2012 Olympics legacy needs to be inclusive of other Olympic legacies - like this track. Maybe concentrating on the state-of-the-art facility is only half the story.

 BBC London 2012 website: velodrome

Herne Hill velodrome website:

 Gordon, Barclay F. Olympic architecture: building for the summer games. New York; Chichester: Wiley, c1983.

London reference collection shelfmark: X.425/4626

Lending collections shelfmark: 83/34418

Bingham-Hall, Patrick. Olympic architecture 2000: building Sydney. Sydney, Australia: Watermark Press, 1999.

Lending collections shelfmark: fm02/1267 (0949284394)

Wimmer, Martin. Olympic buildings. Leipzig : Edition Leipzig ;London : Distributed by Prior, 1976.

London reference collection shelfmark: X.423/5141

Lending collections shelfmark: F76/31412

Sheard, Rod. Sports architecture. London: Spon, c2001

London reference collection shelfmark: LB.31.b.20585

Lending collections shelfmark: m00/42411

Schmidt, Thomas, Werner March, Architekt des Olympia-Stadions, 1894-1976. Basel; Berlin: Birkhauser Verlag, c1992

London reference collection shelfmark: YA.1994.a.9474 

Watts, John F Herne Hill track: the history of this famous cycling venue from 1891 to 2007

[Great Britain]: J F Watts [2007?]

 London reference collection shelfmark: YD.2011.b.1394 


The comments to this entry are closed.