LONDON (Reuters Life!) - One of the most architecturally dramatic features of the 2012 London Olympic buildings -- the sweeping, wave-shaped roof to the aquatics center -- has begun to be lifted into place.
Designed by Iraqi-born architect Zaha Hadid, the center will mark the gateway to the Olympic Park in Stratford, east London.
Originally estimated to cost 73 million pounds ($104.6 million), it is now estimated to come in at 251 million pounds, despite the stingray-shaped roof being scaled down and redesigned amid cost fears.
A bridge connecting the roof to the main park will cost another 61 million pounds.
"The design of the roof is iconic and will be one of the lasting images of the London 2012 Games," said Sebastian Coe, chairman of the London 2012 Organizing Committee (locog), responsible for staging the Games.
The 160-meter long column-free roof is made up of steel, aluminum covering and timber cladding and will rest on two concrete supports at one end and a supporting wall at the other.
Erecting it will be one of the most complex engineering operations of the Olympic construction work.
The 17,500 seat center will host swimming, diving and water polo during the Games, but will be reduced to 2,500 seats afterwards.
"The Aquatics Center is on track to be a fantastic gateway to the Games," said David Higgins, chief executive of the Olympic Delivery Authority, responsible for building the venues.
"The lift of the sweeping wave-shaped roof is one of the toughest construction and engineering challenges on the Olympic Park and will showcase the world class expertise involved in delivering the venues and infrastructure for London 2012."
British builder Balfour Beatty was the only company left in the bidding for construction after France's Eiffel and Germany's Hochtief withdrew.
The area, on a former industrial site, was severely polluted with oil, tar, solvents and heavy metals such as arsenic and lead in the soil, which had to be cleared and decontaminated.
Four skeletons from a prehistoric settlement were also removed.
Reporting by Avril Ormsby; Editing by Steve Addison and Paul Casciato