Olympics: 2012 turns to private sector for stadium wrap

By Avril Ormsby

LONDON (Reuters) - The search for a private company to provide the fabric wrap to jazz up London's Olympic stadium began on Tuesday after the eye-catching 7 million pound ($11 million) covering was cut after a spending review last year.

The 496 million pound venue was designed with the curtain covering steel girders and grey concrete seating and would have allowed for colorful images and slogans to light up the stadium at night as well as minimizing crosswinds.

But it was dropped last October after the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA), responsible for building the 2012 venues, were asked to find 20 million pounds of savings as the British government imposed the severest public spending cuts in generations to rein in a record peacetime budget deficit.

The move was criticized in some quarters, including the architect.

Organizers said at the time that its loss would not affect athletes' performance and that the stadium remained impressive, while "real possibilities" were being explored to find alternative funding.

On Tuesday, it opened an expressions of interest process, with a deadline of February 18.

London's Organizing Committee (LOCOG) said some sort of sponsorship could be available, but the wrap will not display sponsor logos during Games time because International Olympic Committee (IOC) guidelines prevent branding in venues.

"We have had significant interest in supplying the stadium "wrap' from the private sector, so now is the time to start a formal tender process," LOCOG chief executive Paul Deighton said in a statement.

"There are some exciting ideas around, and we are running a process that is fair to those organizations that have expressed an interest."

It is not clear how sponsorship may be shown, and organizers would not place a value on any possible deal. They said they were keeping an "open mind" on the wrap's future design.

The 80,000-seater showpiece stadium, in Stratford, east London, will be used for the opening and closing ceremonies as well as the track and field events.

About four billion people are expected to tune in worldwide.

LOCOG has already raised 670 million pounds toward their 700 million pound sponsorship target, which will help fund their two billion pounds operational budget for the Games.

The future of the stadium once the Games have finished is still under consideration, with the Olympic Park Legacy Company (OPLC) looking at rival bids from Premier League soccer teams Tottenham Hotspur and West Ham United. A third option is to reduce the stadium to a 25,000-seater athletics stadium.

(Editing by Justin Palmer)