A Post-Olympics Victory

Olympic Stadium wrap gets fully repurposed by Dow, Cooley Group, and Rainier to create sheltered communities.

Big Picture

At the center of every modern Olympic Games is the iconic stadium, which for the 2012 London version of the sporting extravaganza featured a stunning fabric wrap comprising more than 300 individual panels, each measuring approximately 80-feet high x 8-feet wide. But as impressive as the graphics were, it’s what’s being done with them in their post-Olympics life that will have a longer-lasting effect.

Leading up to the games, Dow Chemical Company signed on to develop a sustainable media solution for the stadium wrap. The multinational chemicals manufacturer had to meet the rigid “green expectations” imposed by the London Organizing Committee of the Olympic Games (LOCOG), as well as London’s stringent fire-code guidelines. In addition, Dow was to come up with a second-life plan for the printed graphics. How could the wrap be effectively repurposed once all the medals had been won and the athletes had returned home?

Dow called upon Washington-based print provider Rainier, which had produced graphics for the two previous Olympic Games, to gauge the feasibility of such a massive undertaking.

“Was it possible? What would it take to wrap a stadium of this size? And, could it be done using polyethylene materials, so that the process and materials would be sustainable, and so that the results could be repurposed? These were some of the questions Rainier had. We answered, ‘Yes, it can be done’ – but the question now was how?” recalls Scott Powell, Rainier’s marketing director.

Rainier led Dow to The Cooley Group to find a fabric that could work. From there, the stadium-wrap trinity was born: Dow, Rainier, and Cooley. In less than a year’s time, Dow would handle aspects of the chemical composition, Cooley would engineer and produce the fabric, and Rainier would output and install the wrap.

In the first month of working together, however, the team quickly realized that the existing fabric it planned to use would not work. While the fabric met USA fire standards, it did not meet those of London. So, the three companies were left with no choice but to engineer an entirely new fabric all the way down to its chemical composition. The final, newly revised material was made of a lightweight polyester fabric with a polyolefin elastomer-based coating. According to Cooley Group, the fabric is approximately 35-percent lighter and has a 20-percent lower carbon footprint versus conventional materials.

With the fabric in hand, all 336 graphic panels were then output by Rainier using the company’s Durst Rho printer. They then had to be cut by hand because of the fabric’s stiff, thick composition. FabriTex, a division of ShadeUSA, installed all panels in only five weeks.

Once the London Olympics came to an end, the wrap began a metamorphosis into its new purpose: Dow is partnering with Article 25, a leading UK building and development charity, as well as recycling company Axion Recycling, to transform the wrap’s panels into shelter solutions for at-risk children in Uganda and Rio de Janeiro, and for recycling and re-use projects in the UK. The panels will remain as much in their current shape as possible, keeping the look of the Games that has inspired athletes and spectators around the world.

“These projects will build understanding about the importance of the use and re-use of materials in the global community,” says Robin Cross, CEO of Article 25. “London won the honor of hosting the Olympics in 2012 by promising to inspire a generation of young people around the world to greater heights of personal and sporting achievement. By using the stadium wrap to build essential community facilities in Uganda and Brazil we hope to deliver on this international promise and bring part of the London Olympics to some of the most marginalized youngsters in the developing world.”

You can view a Dow-produced video of the project, which also features Cooley Group, Rainier, Article 25, and others, here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T7_MmZIEn9c 


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