Published on October 29, 2012 | by Elspeth Merry and Josh Ford


What next for Olympic Park?

Olympic afterglow

The faded glories of the 2004 Athens Olympics [photograph by Jamie McGregor Smith]

Since the torch was extinguished and the spectators went home, the London 2012 Olympic Park has sat quietly waiting for an incarnation, a new purpose to showcase its architectural triumphs.

Seven years and some $20 billion worth of preparations all led up to a few weeks of pandemonium, ecstasy, patriotism and a supposed global unity, but now what?

Having seen four million eager spectators passed through the golden gates, what will become of this Adonis of sporting facilities?

You only have to look at the trail the torch has left behind to see the possible grim future for the East London playground.

There has been a lot of speculation about the future of the Olympic stadium in Stratford.

Clubs chase Stadium

Popular football clubs such as West Ham, Tottenham Hotspur, and Leyton Orient have all been looking secure the venue after a long bidding process.

East London favourites West Ham are hoping to become the main tenants of the site by the start of the 2014-15 Barclays Premier League season.

The Football Club will be fighting other organisations, such as their east London neighbours Leyton Orient and a football business college, in addition to a group wishing to set up a Formula One race at the park.

“This stadium partnership with Newham Council will help to create a combination of local opportunities in employment, education and sport.” Daniel Moylan

It seems like the £486 million Olympic Stadium is in high demand as it has already been the preferred choice for 20 athletic meetings – including the World Championships in 2017.

The Stadium will also be open to the community as Newham Council have contributed a £40 million loan for the redevelopment of the Park.

The aim is that the 99-year lease will help bring about a large number of community benefits that will include job opportunities, educational schemes, and the use of the running track for sports and events, in an attempt to provide a legacy for the venue.

The success of the London 2012 Olympics has also inspired other organisations to follow suit by giving something back to the community. Daniel Moylan, chairman of London Legacy Development Corporation said:

“This stadium partnership with Newham Council will help to create a combination of local opportunities in employment, education and sport.

They will provide a greater legacy for this world-class venue with more uses still to come. It’s another example of how London is further ahead in planning legacy than any previous host Olympic city.”

Olympic legacy must continue

With these comments in mind, how does the projected legacy of the 2012 Olympics compare to that of previous games?

Rubbish outside Olympic Stadium in Athens

Photographer Jamie McGregor Smith has captured the bleak, overgrown sports graveyard of the desolate legacy left by the 2004 Athens Olympics Games.

Borrow Build Abandonan Athenian Adventure in Concrete Steel, documents the decline and dereliction of some of the Olympic arenas situated right in the birthplace of the games.

The aftermath of the ‘greatest show in the world’ is poignant and eerie, with Smith portraying the complete abandonment of a forgotten Olympics.

“The games have almost been like a punctuation mark on this route, and now the legacy corporation will be working hard to get this open for next summer.” David Stubbs

Only three of the 22 Olympic stadiums, built at the cost of $15 billion, are currently in public use in Athens.

The sea-front Faliro complex – which once hosted the beach volleyball and taekwondo – intermittently holds concerts but for the majority of the time it is completely fenced off, with squatter’s setting up camps in the surrounding areas.

Smith states that Olympic construction highlights the continued trend of public borrowing for structures that have limited shelf life:

“In the years of sovereign debt crisis, these white elephants of peer pressured national pride, much like the factory shelves in defunct industrialised cities, are testament to humans failure to comprehend inevitable entropic social change.”

Indeed, these temporary sporting pleasure domes need to be created with longevity as a central principle.

London Legacy 

Building work on the London Olympic site

David Stubbs, Head of Sustainability of London 2012 comments that from the beginning they have always known it was a long-term project.

Stubbs said that “the games have almost been like a punctuation mark on this route, and now the legacy corporation will be working hard to get this open for next summer.”

Analysts are now arguing that the extravagance of the 2004 games have contributed to Greece’s current debt crisis, which would surely call for a national uproar.

An Olympic legacy as such, it will be remembered as a thorn in Greece’s fiscal side.

Whatever the outcome, it looks like the 2012 Olympics were the best thing that happened to London this year.

With Team GB racking up some amazing victories and the numerous job opportunities set to open up for the community in the next few years, the much talked about ‘legacy’ looks to be on track and, if there was ever an answer for the high levels of unemployment in Britain, this could be it.


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