Some Olympic host cities have fared poorly when it comes to paying off Olympic debt and managing sustainable venues. London 2012 Olympic Games organizers kept this in mind when they chose and designed venues built specifically for the Games. Even in the midst of excitement to building up to the 2012 Games, they were planning to repurpose these buildings and places.
Most significant was the Olympic committee’s promise to leave a legacy for East London, home of the 2012 Olympics’ centerpiece, Olympic Park, now called Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. The new park contains five former Olympic venues.
Olympic Park, a year after the Games
The public park will open in July 2013, one year after the 2012 London Games. Some of the first big events are already on the calendar. The London Anniversary Games include the British Athletics London Grand Prix and the Samsung Diamond League track and field competitions as well as Paralympic-style events for athletes with disabilities. On the music front, the Hard Rock Calling music festival moves from Hyde Park to Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in July 2013, with Bruce Springsteen among the performers.
Inside Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park
The Velodrome, which holds 6,000 people and was the site of cycling events, will be operated by a local authority. The Aquatics Centre goes under contract for 10 years this spring to a non-profit group that already operates 90 leisure and recreation centers in southeast England. Both venues were built with flexible seating and reconfiguration capability with the future in mind. The Aquatics Centre's Olympic pool has an adjustable pool depth, so it can be used for class instruction as well as for larger scale events.
The structure built for handball, nicknamed the Copper Box, is slated to become a site for basketball, handball, badminton, boxing, martial arts, netball, table tennis, wheelchair rugby and volleyball. As London's third-largest arena, it will also be used for conventions, conferences and exhibitions.
Olympic Stadium rebirth
London’s Olympic Stadium seats 80,000 spectators. London has won its bid as host to the IAAF 2017 World Athletics Championships, which has grown to include nearly 2,000 athletes from more than 200 countries. Bids for a permanent purpose include one from West Ham United, a Premiere League football club, and another from Formula One. It may also host the 2015 Rugby World Cup.
The Olympic basketball venue, built to be temporary, is for sale at £2.5 million ($4 million) and scheduled for dismantling after all bids are received on March 31. If the new buyer wants the 12,000 seats used by spectators, they're a separate deal. The structures built at Greenwich Park for equestrian competition and at Horse Guards Parade for volleyball are also being dismantled for use elsewhere.
Home, sweet home
No one is promising these former venues will be vibrant by tomorrow. However, the mission of London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) is to build a community of the future centered around Stratford, East London. The corporation predicts that this will be "one of London's top visitor destinations by 2020, and by 2030 over 20,000 residents will be living at the park."
Stratford's deluxe Westfield Shopping Centre, which opened in 2011, is already a major draw to the area near the Olympic venues. Developers are adding kitchens to each unit of the former athlete housing at East Village to provide nearly 3,000 apartments that will form the backbone of this new community, well served by public transportation. An LLDC spokesperson said, "The Olympic Park will be transformed into a new piece of London with new homes, commercial space, beautiful parklands and iconic Olympic venues — all converted for public use."
View from the top
The project is due to be completed by spring 2014, but those curious about its transformation don’t need to wait until then. Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park is conducting "Park in Progress Tours" so members of the public can have a look at the changes for themselves. Included in the £15 ($23) tour is a visit to the top of the observation deck of the ArcelorMittal Orbit, the tallest sculpture in the UK.
by Laurie Jo Miller Farr
Photos: Workers take a break on a row of upturned benches outside the Olympic Stadium in in London. As the site redevelopment takes shape, the athletes village and sports venues will be transformed into new neighborhoods, leisure centers and visitor attractions. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
Work to repurpose London’s Olympic Park started the day after the London 2012 Paralympic Games closing ceremony in September 2012. (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
The Olympic Stadium and ArcelorMittal Orbit shone during the closing ceremonies. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
Shoppers walk past the London 2012 Olympic Park at the Westfield Stratford City Shopping center. (Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images)