BOISE, ID (AP) An American engineer who oversaw digging on the rail tunnel that connects England and France will lead construction for the 2012 London Olympics, a post due to get intense public scrutiny in coming years as workers race to complete stadiums, swimming pools and arenas on budget and in time for opening ceremonies.
Jack Lemley, of Boise, ID, will be chairman of the Olympic Delivery Authority, according to a statement on the Web site for the United Kingdom’s Department for Culture, Media and Sport.
He’ll oversee an effort that organizers have forecast will cost $4.1 billion.
Judging from the last Olympic Games in Athens, Greece, in 2004, Lemley faces a monumental job: Sticking to a tight schedule in which all projects must be completed by the July 27, 2012, opening ceremonies.
Greek organizers of the last Olympics were very nearly dealt a black eye as their plans were changed, landscaping scaled back and the roof left off the swimming pool, while hammering on some venues continued until just hours before the Olympic flame was lit over Athens Olympic Stadium. The cost of those games has exceeded original estimates by more than $3 billion.
“Getting ready the venues and the infrastructure for the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games is the ultimate task for any businessman, with the ultimate deadline, a completion date that cannot be moved, even by one day,” Lemley said, adding, “I am raring to go.”
Lemley heads Lemley and Associates, a Boise-based engineering consultancy whose projects include Boston’s “Big Dig” tunnel, Istanbul’s underground Metro train and Hong Kong’s sewer disposal tunnels.
Between 1989 and 1993, Lemley was chief executive officer of Transmanche-Link, the Anglo-French consortium that built the $14.7-billion Eurotunnel beneath the English Channel.
London beat out rivals including Paris and New York City for the 2012 event by centering its bid on the massive urban renewal of a dilapidated suburb of Stratford in East London.
And debate over the project has already started: Estimates for the costs of buying land and relocating businesses have come in at as much as $1.76 billion — approximately twice the amount that’s currently been budgeted.
Olympic organizers are banking on Lemley’s experience — in addition to the “Chunnel” beneath the English Channel, he’s also overseen billion-dollar projects including the King Khalid Military City project in Saudi Arabia — to make sure the effort runs smoothly.
Lemley, who’ll be paid approximately $515,000 annually for his initial four-year contract, met with officials including U.K. Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott. Organizers said they chose Lemley because of his reputation as a specialist for getting difficult projects done.
“It’s one of the biggest business challenges in the world and one of the biggest jobs in the construction industry,” said U.K. Olympics Minister Tessa Jowell, of Lemley’s task.
“He will bring a wealth of experience to the task of preparing the ground for the biggest sporting event in the world to come to London.”