Newcastle engineers create Rio 2016 Olympic whitewater course

A team of five engineers from Newcastle-based consultancy Cundall have helped to design the canoe slalom course in Brazil

Earthworks underway at the site of the Olympic whitewater course at the Deodoro Olympic Park in Brazil
Earthworks underway at the site of the Olympic whitewater course at the Deodoro Olympic Park in Brazil

Engineers from Newcastle have helped in the intricate design of white water canoe course for the Rio 2016 Olympic games.

A team of five from Newcastle-headquartered engineering consultancy Cundall has pieced together the design of 280m of artificially created rapids that will test the skill of Olympic canoeists in 2016.

Over a year’s work has already gone into the multi-million pound project, which is based heavily on the London 2012 venue – on which Cundall also worked.

Earthworks at the Deodoro Olympic Park have started in preparation of the build, which will feature the whitewater course, a 25,000m3 lake and two pumping stations.

Damien Dungworth, a senior associate at Cundall and the lead engineer on the Rio project, has visited the site to oversee the project, which is due to be completed in 2015.

He said: “It certainly ranks amongst the most interesting projects we’ve worked on as a company. It comes on the back of our work on the London 2012 canoe slalom course.

“The Rio course is made up of two river channels. Water is pumped from the lake at the bottom course to the top. The obstacles, which are prefabricated shapes, are then dropped into the channels to create the course.”

Cundall’s Newcastle-based team was selected for the job by Whitewater Parks International – a US-based firm which specialises in creating whitewater sports facilities.

Earthworks underway at the site of the 2016 Olympic whitewater course at the Deodoro Olympic Park in Brazil
 

Mr Dungworth added: “Whitewater Parks understand the environment needed to create a good water course, and what it takes to accomplish that. We’re the engineers that need to translate that environment into a viable design.

“The London 2012 project gave us the chance to establish what works in this type of build, so we’ve been able to take a great deal of that knowledge and employ it in Brazil.”

Cundall’s designs allow for the pumping of 12 cubic metres per second on the main channel of the course.

The work required computer aided design (CAD), electrical engineering and mechanical engineering expertise from the Newcastle team.

Part of the development has included a scale modelling exercise at the Czech Technical University (CVUT) in Prague.

A 1:13 scale hydraulic model of the whitewater channels was constructed at the university to test the gradient, flow rates and obstacle placement.

Modelling scenarios tested hydraulics effects such as depths, velocities, directional shifts, momentum, surging, recirculation and feature formation. The process also meant the International Canoe Federation could give the green light for construction at the Deodoro Olympic Park.

Mr Dungworth explained that executing a project of this significance left little room for manoeuvre throughout the development.

He said: This project has been a lot quicker than the London 2012 course – simply because we’ve been able to take a lot of the pre-established design components and use them again.

“Projects like this often get delayed but when you’re working towards the Olympics there is really no moving the deadline at all. Ideally you need something like this finished well in advance so you can run a test event too.”

As well as the ongoing Brazilian project, Cundall’s Newcastle team are working on a similar whitewater course in Auckland, New Zealand.

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