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Gavros 3:58 Wed Oct 10
In London, Olympic Park’s Legacy Is Sustainability
New York Times

London’s ability to draw businesses to Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park six years after the Summer Games has attracted the attention of other host cities.

By Amie Tsang
Oct. 9, 2018

LONDON — The mandate was clear when London won the right to host the 2012 Summer Olympics: “No white elephants.”

It was 2005, and London needed to redevelop a Victorian industrial area in the Stratford district of east London that had faded into a down-at-the-heels combination of small businesses, warehouses and brownfield land. It could not afford to spend 9 billion pounds, about $11.5 billion, on useless infrastructure when the Games had been sold as a way to bolster development in one of the poorest parts of east London.

As the financial crisis reared its head and austerity measures started to bite, it became all the more important that the Olympic venues could be sustainable.

Six years after the Games, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, as the area is now known, has lived up to that directive. The industrial land has been replaced with landscaped greenery. The rivers and canals, previously derelict, are dotted with tour boats and swan-shaped paddle boats.

The Olympic Stadium has been put to use as the home of West Ham United, attracting criticism from fans along the way. It has also hosted athletics competitions, the Foo Fighters and Beyoncé. The Red Sox will play the Yankees there in 2019.

The ArcelorMittal Orbit, a red Anish Kapoor work writhing into the sky, has had a slide installed. Visitors can plunge down a silver corkscrew winding around the sculpture.

Britain’s Financial Conduct Authority and Unicef are among the organizations that have set up shop in the business quarter of the park, which leads onto an enormous shopping mall. What was the broadcasting center is now a tech hub.

Elsewhere, examples of faltering sports legacies are common.

Reports from Beijing have shown venues in disrepair 10 years after the 2008 Summer Games. Rio’s Olympic sites showed signs of abandon just six months after the Games. Russians and Brazilians have questioned the broader benefits of hosting the World Cup. In Athens, the ’04 Games were costly and the locations left to ruin.

Other cities are becoming more cautious. Tokyo scrapped a Zaha Hadid design for a stadium for the 2020 Summer Olympics after the costs were deemed too high.

As a result, other host cities are perking up at London’s ability to draw businesses.

The solution was building less, said Jeff Keas, who worked on the Games for Populous, the architecture firm.

“Whatever you don’t need permanently, you build temporarily,” he said. The basketball arena was sold off after the Games. The beach volleyball events were held in a temporary venue on Horse Guards Parade.

Barcelona, whose Olympic hosting duties are often lauded as a success, had applied this ethos, too, Mr. Keas said. “It was like urban acupuncture: You dropped the venues throughout the city. Those venues helped revitalize the city.”

Paris, which is hosting the Olympics in 2024, is taking a leaf out of London’s book and opting to have only three permanent new structures. The swimming pool will be temporary, allowing the savings to be spent on building permanent community pools in a part of Paris that lacks sports facilities.

“London was very inspiring to us, for sure,” said Marie Barsacq, the director of impact and legacy for the organizing committee France 2024. Having looked at east London, the French organizers “really wanted to have the same impact of change in the local area.”

Similarly, Los Angeles will not build any new venues. “LA 2028 is about what we have, not what we’re going to build,” the organizing committee said on its website.

Cities are being nudged in that direction by organizers wary of leaving a trail of unused venues. Sports bodies like the Olympic Committee and FIFA “really don’t like white elephants,” Mr. Keas said. “They want things that are sustainable.”

This may lead to events being more spread out geographically, particularly for something like the World Cup, which is set to include more teams and more matches in 2026.

In London, the use of temporary venues has allowed the city to avoid some longer-term expenses, but there are still costs for taxpayers. The company that owns the stadium loses about £20 million a year alone.

The London Legacy Development Corporation, a temporary agency that runs the park, received almost £37 million in funding in the last fiscal year, mostly from the Greater London Authority. It is looking at sponsorship to bring in more money.

The introduction of a culture and education quarter is expected to attract night life, too. The so-called East Bank is set to house a partnership between the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Smithsonian, as well as dance, music and educational institutions. The Madison Square Garden Company is also planning an arena next to the park.

This kind of culture would have been unthinkable in the area before the Olympic Games, said Ralph Ward, a visiting professor at the University of East London who worked for the government on planning for the Games. Stratford was considered “deeply unfashionable” before the Olympics. “It’s difficult to underplay the significance of that change in attitude,” Mr. Ward said.

But the park management still needs to work hard to attract more visitors, particularly in the quieter and colder months. “We still have to get over that hurdle,” said Lyn Garner, the chief executive of the development agency.

She hopes the rush to build homes and create jobs will help these efforts. Some of the homes in the former athletes’ village are already occupied, and the agency is aiming to have 24,000 new homes in and around the park by 2031.

But in the frenzy of construction, many long-term residents are wondering whether they will see the gains from the towers that puncture the skyline around them. House prices in the areas around the Olympic Park are estimated to have risen 64 percent in the five years after the Olympics. The governing London Assembly has criticized the development corporation for the speed at which affordable housing is being completed.

Many feel that promises of prosperity have been broken, said Saskia O’Hara, who campaigns for Focus E15, a group calling for more affordable housing.

“You’re still in the borough with one of the highest homelessness rates in London,” Ms. O’Hara said. “The Olympics is a good way of fast gentrifying your area, but what it means for working-class people is, ‘Get them out.’”

Juliet Can, who grew up in Stratford, remembers a time when all she wanted to do was get out of east London. Now, she feels a “bittersweetness” when she looks at how it has been transformed.

She runs an affordable work space for artists on the edge of the Olympic Park, in Hackney Wick, where plastic was first made in the 19th century and a large community of artists had settled. Many have fled for lower rents elsewhere. The pride Ms. Can feels at how the area has developed is tinged with fear that she, too, will be edged out.

When she first rented an apartment there in 2008, she was given six months’ free rent and told to keep the lights on at night so that the real estate agents could show that people already lived in the area.

Now, she is just managing to pay almost £2,000 a month for a two-bedroom flat, which was £600 a month when she moved in 10 years ago, after persuading her landlord not to raise her rent any further.

“There’s this feeling of, ‘But I might not be living there for much longer, and actually I don’t know if anyone that I know will be able to live there in 10, 20 years,’” Ms. Can said. “I see the buildings going up and I think, ‘That’s not for me.’”

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joe royal 6:37 Wed Oct 10
Christmas Jumper SPLAT !!!





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