Sports stadiums for major world sports events, such as the Olympics or the FIFA World Cup, usually present a significant architectural and urban-planning challenge for the hosting country. These stadiums are often gigantic steel structures, each tending towards futuristic and complex designs, which have to be completed within a fixed timeframe because the actual opening events are scheduled years in advance and cannot be delayed. So whilst the world’s athletes train for tireless hours to prepare for these events, it is the ultimate race against time for all the engineering contractors involved in the erection of their stadium.

The Role of Numerical Simulation in the Erection of Sports Stadiums

Given the limited time that contractors have to build these sports stadiums, the role of computer-based engineering both at the design stage as well as in the building phase of the project is of paramount importance.  For example, these structures require:

Structural Engineering of Sports Facilities

  • a characterization of the on-site wind direction and intensity together with a full evaluation of wind pressure on the structure which can be achieved through a Computational Fluid Dynamic (CFD) study, the result of which are complex spatial distributions of wind pressures that need to be efficiently applied to the FEM structural model
  • a careful investigation of both local and global stability
  • an evaluation of the ultimate load-carrying capacity; a highly non-linear problem where plasticity, creep, geometric nonlinearity, contact or self-contact may be accounted for
  • the study of structural integrity during accidental scenarios such as a fire or explosion; through virtual prototyping it is possible to simulate such an occurrence and to analyze possible responses in order to maximize the safety of all present during such an event

The following are some of the additional tasks that may need to be addressed while performing a structural analysis of a sports stadium:

  • creep and shrinkage phenomena for concrete structure
  • linear and non linear buckling analysis of slender structures or shallow arches
  • tensioning analysis of cable-stayed, suspended or hypostatic structures
  • linear and non-linear seismic analysis
  • detail structural analysis
  • construction sequence analysis

So what is the added value of Virtual Prototyping in the Structural Engineering of Sports Facilities?

It should come as no surprise that virtual prototyping is today an indispensible tool for the structural engineer. From the point of view of the engineers involved with the actual erection of the structure, the analysis involves the verification of the analyses that were already carried out by the design engineers. Additionally they must carry out a thorough study of the erection process to be in a position to provide quick responses to any input from the actual construction site. Thanks to their virtual structural model they are in a position to quickly evaluate the effects of on-site operations to the structure in terms of internal forces, stresses and displacement. In a nutshell, computer analysis provides significant savings over more expensive on-site evaluations and is able to shorten the construction time in general allowing contractors to complete the stadiums in time for the opening of the games.

Case Study

  • Athens 2004 Olympic Stadium Roof Restyling

    The Athens 2004 Olympic Stadium roof is an impressive cable-stayed steel roof structure designed by the renowned architect Santiago Calatrava and constructed by Cimolai Spa of Italy. The erection procedure resulted in a complex construction sequence where two separate halves were built and then transported to their final position above the Olympic Stadium.

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  • Johannesburg 2010 World Cup Stadium Roof and Facade Design

    When the FNM stadium in Johannesburg was selected as the venue for the 2010 FIFA World Cup, an ambitious remodeling and expansion plan for the stadium was initiated. The remodeled stadium which became known as Soccer City or the “Calabash” was to have its facade clad with a mosaic made of, earth and fire colored, light fiber-cement panels. The cantilever roof structure was to be clad with PTFE membranes matching the sand color of the mines found in the stadium neighborhood.

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