London 2012 was billed as the most sustainable Games possible, regenerating
a neglected part of the East End of London and leaving no architectural white elephants
in its wake. Whether it ultimately succeeds in
this remains to be seen, but if it doesn't, it certainly won't be for a lack of vision, hard
work or investment.
In July next year, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park (as it will be called) will begin to open to the public and will offer visitors more than a hundred hectares of parkland, waterways, meadows and wetlands, several world-class sports facilities and up to 25 different sports and activities daily. Around that time, the Park's
first residential neighbourhood will open in the converted Olympic and Paralympic Village and by 2014 the Press and Broadcast Centres will begin to be converted into 91,000sq m of office space able to accommodate 4,000 people. If
all goes to plan, by 2030 the whole 560 acres
of Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park will offer six residential neighbourhoods (including the Olympic and Paralympic Village), 11,000 new homes, 8,000 permanent jobs, two primary schools, one academy, one secondary school, 29 playgrounds and four medical centres.
However, to understand fully how this will all happen, it is necessary to go back to the early years of this century. "The decisions that were made almost a decade ago are what made the Games so brilliant and what will make the legacy so brilliant," says Jeff Keas, a principal at global sport architecture firm Populous.
His company not only designed London 2012's Olympic Stadium, it was also part of the Olympic bid and later masterplan teams
and was responsible for all the temporary architecture at London 2012. (Keas led a team that included London-based architects Lifshutz Davidson Sandilands and Allies & Morrison.) In 2004, the bid team submitted three masterplans:
an Olympic plan, a legacy plan and a non-Olympic plan. "The Olympic masterplan took into account venues the city already had and asked the question, 'What does London need
to make the Games happen?'" explains Chris Jopson, an associate principal at Populous
who has been working on the Olympic project for almost ten years. The non-Olympic plan
was in case London didn't win the bid in 2005.
"When you think about legacy, usually you think about something that is going to remain afterwards," says Keas, explaining that in the case of London 2012, legacy was much more about what would not stay. "Our approach
was always to build only what was absolutely necessary and hire in everything that wasn't because that way we knew that it would have a future life after the Games," says Jopson.
The statistics speak for themselves. Out of 180 venues and structures (these include hospitality, medical, administrative and training areas,
the accreditation centre and so on), only eight new venues were permanent. "If you add up all our temporary accommodation here in London, it would equal the temporary accommodation used in the Sydney, Athens and Beijing Games put together," says Jopson. "We retained the key iconic pieces but the message here was that we don't need to keep everything."
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