As we approach the Olympics, the legacy of the Games is continually open to critical examination. Many are sceptical of what The Olympic Park Legacy Company (OPLC) has set out to achieve once the Games have finished while others remain hopeful about the social and economic benefits promised.
In 1948 the London Olympics cost a mere £750,000, which pales in comparison to the estimated £24 billion we will spend on London 2012. Everyone is aware of the huge cost of the Olympics and frequent articles in the press remind taxpayers what their money is being spent on, from extravagant stadiums to a £350,000 sculpture. OPLC need to be able to justify such spending and show that it is worthwhile.
The ambition of the Strategic Regeneration Framework is rather impressive. After the Games the Olympic Park will become one of the largest urban parks in Europe. The River Lea’s canals and waterways will be widened and cleaned and the natural flood plains of the area will be restored to provide a new wetland habitat for birdwatchers and ecologists to enjoy. Many native species will be planted including oak, ash and willow trees, providing a new home for wildlife in the middle of the city.
Other plans include: the world-class sports facilities being adapted so they can be used by the local community as well as elite athletes; the Olympic and Paralympic villages, where athletes and officials will stay during the games, being converted into affordable homes; and shops, restaurants and cafes being built to provide new amenities for the local community. It is hoped that all of this will amount to a reduction of the social and economic inequalities that currently exist between the six host boroughs and the rest of London.
Many have high hopes for the regeneration of Stratford, which is set to receive a £10 million face lift, and some have even gone as far as labelling it as the ‘new Manhattan’. That might be going a bit far, but in September 2011 Stratford saw the opening of an expansive new shopping centre, Westfield Stratford City. The centre sits adjacent to the Olympic Park and has created around 10,000 jobs, showing improvements to Stratford and its surrounding areas have already become a reality.
Learning from other people’s mistakes is one way of avoiding making your own and London need look no further than the Olympics held in Beijing four years ago. Many of the venues built for the games today remain unloved, under-used and a drain on public finances. Beijing’s two main venues, the ‘Bird’s Nest’ stadium and the ‘Water Cube’ aquatics centre, now attract curious tourists rather than being used as locations for major sporting events. The stadium’s management estimates that at the current rate it will take around three decades to recuperate the three billion yuan that it cost to build. It is suggested that the organisers failed to consider how to use the venues after the Olympics. With the clear framework it has put in place, London will hopefully avoid a similar fate.
Organisers of the London 2012 Olympics hope they will leave a legacy of national benefits in culture, sport, volunteering, business and tourism. Will this be achieved? Only time will tell. Get your next visit to the city planned with a look at SilverDoor’s selection of London serviced apartments today.