Olympic Stadium Wrap: Collaboration, Part II

Dow is an international leader in Elastomers. Rainier is an international manufacturer of innovative fabric and display products. The Cooley Group is an industry leader of engineered fabrics, focused on using sustainable chemistry.

All three companies provide solutions. And it’s a good thing, because wrapping the Olympic Stadium was one big exercise in problem-solving.

The panels had to be strong, flexible, beautiful – they’re an integral part of the architects’ vision for the stadium. They aren’t an “add-on” or a “decoration.” They’re an architectural element, a crucial part of the aesthetic and functional design (see our post yesterday about the architecture of the stadium).

What Rainier, Dow, and Cooley quickly found after starting to work together was that the existing fabric we’d planned to use would not, in fact, work – it meets the USA fire standards, but not the fire standards of the team in London. So that eliminated the initial material – then several others – and the machines rejected the next iterations – so the 3 companies worked together to engineer a new fabric. And we do mean new – all the way down to its chemical composition.

Those first months were tough. The fabric presented problem after problem – that is, conference call after conference call with scientists around the world. To meet the UK fire standards, the fabric was approximately the chemical composition of roofing membranes.

Charlie Rueb and Randy Paul listening to scientists across the globe discuss the chemistry on speakerphone.

Dow and Cooley were trying to figure out how to use that material – a material that usually lies horizontally, with lots of support – and adapt it so it could rise vertically over 80 feet in the air, supported by tensioning cables.

Plus it had to be able to go through our printers. People don’t usually print ink on roofs for a reason.

Rainier doesn’t engineer the chemical composition of fabric – we make things with fabric – so we listened in while Dow and Cooley tackled the hard science. And sometimes, at 5 am, even with years and years of experience in the fabric business, Bruce and Charlie didn’t understand a word they were saying.

Clockwise, from bottom: Bruce Dickinson, Charlie Rueb, and Randy Paul on a 5 am conference call with Dow and Cooley.
“It really was a one step forward, two steps back process. But we all kept going. One way or another, it was going to happen.”
–Bruce Dickinson,
VP of Sales

But a few days later, a sample of new material would arrive at the Rainier facilities and we’d test it.

And then we’d call back.

By the time Cooley produced and shipped us the final fabric, we had 6 months to print it, cut it, sew it, pack it, ship it, and install it.


Maybe this is why the fire standards were so high for anything related to the Olympic venues!