I spent a whirlwind 48 hours in London recently, rubbing shoulders with economic big wigs (Bridget Rosewell is one very smart woman,) and many an Olympic site planner/chair/manager. London’s 2012 Olympic Games are just around the corner, and this past week’s jaunt across the pond can be credited to a very interesting conference about the legacy that these games will leave on the city.
Hosted by the Vinci’s City Factory, speakers reiterated one after another that the games would not leave behind desolated sports arenas once the crowds dissipate and all the fanfair is over. China boasted on of the best Games ever, but now the various sites that were built (to the detriment of a number of historic Beijing communities lest we forget,) just sit there gathering dust…
London plans to avoid this by turning to what many would call the more sketchy part of the city, East London, into the official Olympic grounds. But what’s interesting here isn’t that they’re setting up major sports infrastructure in an area that looked like a wasteland until quite recently. It’s that an olympic comitee has finally considered that once the Games are over, crowds the size of the ones drawn to the Games do not manifest themselves again, ever.
Designs for the arenas and sports locales include modifiable buildings. Parts of the infrastructure – entire seating sections, walls and portions of buildings – will be taken down post-Games and shipped off (the comitee hopes,) to Barcelona for the next Summer Games. Landscapes will change too, with bridges becoming narrower once the masses leave, for example.
In some cases, entire arenas will dissapear. In others, sports complexes will be modified so that everyone can enjoy the facility, and not just the pros (the BMX center for instance… Jumps and circuits will be modified and made more accessible).
A few interesting ideas about the social impact to be felt post-Games were also thrown around. I for one have my fingers crossed that the analysts are right, and that the reinvigoration of East London will raise the “life chance” (aka social status) of those living around the grounds (Hackney area for example…) giving the kids growing up around there the infrastructure they need to be on par with the rest of the London crowd.
I don’t know if East London will become “London’s new center”, but it was certainly interesting to hear some intelligent reflexion about money, infrastructure, power and development an how each pertains to an area completely modified for the games. Let’s hope that London’s Olympic legacy is a good one, because their logo certainly isn’t (zing!)