I grew up in Salt Lake City, Utah, a former host of the Winter Olympics. Like many Games before ours, venue after venue went up, hotels were built, highways were revamped, and the city was transformed to accomodate the onslaught of athletes and tourists descending upon it.
When I go home, I am always reminded of the Olympics, because, well, the tall, skinny, ice-looking cauldron is still standing at Rice Eccles Stadium, built for the Olympics and current home to the University of Utah football program. The legacy of an Olympics like ours was sort of simple: it's a mountain town, with mountain sports, and now all of the sports we already had venues for just have better ones, for training and recreation alike.
For London, how to deal with the new buildings and modifications made for the Games could be more complicated. Plans for the legacy of the Olympic Park (to be named Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park) were recently unveiled by London mayor Boris Johnson, highlighting how exactly the city hopes to continue to use the park to the benefit of its citizens and not serve as a reminder of wasted resources. It's a tricky thing to do, when something is so purpose built.
London 2012 has already secured the future of six of the eight purpose built venues in the Olympic Park, a high number, considering the games have only just concluded. The press center is to become a technology, design and research center, which according to the mayor's office has the potential to generate more than 4,000 jobs, with more fun (but unannounced) stuff slated for the stadium.
Up to 8000 new homes will be created in addition to the already quite large athletes village (about 10,000 new places to live total), making up five new neighborhoods are planned for the next 20 years that will include new schools, health care centers and 102 hectacres of green space. It's nice to see that this is a long-term plan, and not a quick-fix plan to make some money back right away.
North Park, the first phase, is set to open next summer, exactly a year after the Opening Ceremonies of this summer's Games. The second phase, dubbed South Plaza, is slated to open in Spring 2014 (this part will include the stadium and the Aquatics Center, which will be open to public swimming).
“The doom and gloom merchants who said our great city would implode as we tried to stage the greatest show on earth have been proved wrong," said Johnson. "And they will be proved wrong again as we use the catalyst of the games to attract investment into the wealth of opportunities arising in London now and in the coming years. Put simply there is no other place on the planet where investors will see greater returns.”
None of the hysteria before the Games (no security! too much traffic!) played out as being true, and the city and the world came together to deliver some the best games I've ever seen (despite some coverage blips,) hopefully this is a tradition that can continue. As for London, we'll see how these plans manifest themselves. But having plans is the first step.
Here are the stats of the legacy plans from the Mayor's Office:
After the Games, the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) will begin a £300m construction project to transform the Olympic site into the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. This will involve removing temporary venues, transforming permanent venues into everyday use, building new roads and bridges and the first neighbourhood.
- The Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park will be an exciting new visitor destination. Iconic venues and attractions will sit alongside new homes, schools and businesses, amongst open green spaces and pieces of art in the heart of London’s East End.
- The new Park will open in phases from 27th July 2013, exactly one year after the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Games. The LLDC was set up three years before the Games in 2009.
- The Park will be 560 acres (226 hectares) in size, equivalent to Hyde Park or 357 football pitches.
Venues and Sport
- The future of six of the eight permanent venues has already been secured (Aquatics Centre, Orbit, Multi-Use Arena, Olympic Village, Velodrome, Eton Manor).
- We are in advanced stages of work to complete the remaining two (Stadium and the Press and Broadcast Centre).
- The Park offers sporting programmes for everything from grass roots community use to high performance competitions.
- Price pledge: the cost of a swimming in the Aquatics Centre or court hire in the Multi-use Arena will be the same as that of a local leisure centre.
- Up to 8,000 permanent jobs on the park by 2030 plus 2,500 temporary construction jobs
- Training and apprenticeships with a focus on opportunities for local people
- Venues such as the Press and Broadcast Centres have been developed so they can be adapted for commercial use after Games.
- Five new neighbourhoods developed over 20 years
- Up to 8,000 new homes in addition to the 2,800 in the athletes’ village
- A target of 35% affordable housing
- 3 schools
- 9 nurseries
- 3 health centres
- 29 playgrounds
- Best connected most accessible place in Europe.
- Direct connections to a third of London’s rail and underground stations.
- There are nine public transport lines feeding into Stratford station; after the Games this will increase to ten. This means that a train could arrive at the station every 15 seconds.
- By 2016, it’˙s estimated that the number of passengers using Stratford station each morning will reach 83,000.
- Expected to become one of London’s Top 10 visitor destinations by 2020 attracting local, regional, national and international visitors.
- The Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park could attract more than 9million visitors per year from across London, the UK and abroad from 2016.
- Over 22 miles of interlinking pathways, waterways and cycle paths.
- 252 acres (102 hectares) of open space.
- 6.5 kms of rivers and canals running through the Park
- 111 acres (45 hectares) of biodiverse wildlife habitat on the Olympic Park, including reedbeds, grasslands, ponds and woodlands, with 525 bird boxes and 150 bat boxes.
Video: "No Ordinary Park" from Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park on Vimeo.