The 2012 Olympics in London is only two years away but unresolved logistical challenges remain.
Two years from now, the world’s sporting gaze will be fixed firmly on London and its brand new stadium in Stratford, East London.
The opening ceremony for the 2012 Olympics, certain to be as baffling as it is widely watched, will be followed by two weeks of sporting drama. Hosting an Olympics is nothing if not ambitious – if it comes off, the Games could re-shape London’s cityscape and deliver a new blueprint for powering urban centres. But, while the event is sure to throw up its own storylines, several hurdles are still to be cleared.
London’s Olympic Park
Olympic Park in Stratford will host the athletics, the swimming and the cycling, among other sports. It will be the Games’ nerve centre. But, according to Peter Murray, chairman of New London Architecture – the centre for London’s built environment – finding a use for the facilities after the Games is as important as delivering them in the first place.
“We’re desperate for it not to turn out like almost every other Olympic site, where five years later it’s just empty, unused space,” Murray says. “A lot of work has gone into trying to stop that but a lot depends on investment going into it later.”
Murray also stresses the Olympics’ regenerative potential, particularly in the East End.
“In terms of the impact it will have and the investment it will attract into the East End – it needed something like this to happen, otherwise it would have remained the most impoverished part of London. That’s the direction the smoke got blown in, that’s where the industry and the sewage works were – it’s traditionally been the poor part of town.”
Selling the Olympic buzz
Ask most Londoners about the Olympics and they’ll tell you they’re worried about the traffic, or the Tube, or the security, or all the bloody tourists. Maybe they’re just whingeing Poms, but Murray also believes the bid committee has failed to generate homegrown enthusiasm.
“You should be beginning to get that buzz,” he says. “But you wouldn’t even know you’re in an Olympic city. It’s so controlled by the brand guardians that they seem to have forgotten about celebrating it in London itself.”
On two of those common bugbears, Murray suggests the locals’ grumbling is misplaced.
“Statistics from other Olympic cities show a lot of normal tourists won’t come – the impact on daily Londoners may not be as bad as people think,” Murray says.
“The transport into the Games won’t affect people in three-quarters of London. It will put a bit of pressure on places like King’s Cross, where there will be a fast seven-minute train going into the site. But, away from the direct routes, London’s not going to be that bad.”
The greenest games?
When it comes to green cred, the London bid committee set the bar high. Beyond minimising emissions and reducing waste, organisers are hoping to deliver a new paradigm for how London approaches these 21st-century challenges. The key, according to Murray, lies in local energy production and local waste management.
“Those two things will probably be the two biggest environmental impacts on the whole of London in the next 30 years,” Murray says. “It will provide a model for how we ought to develop London in future.
“Local systems are the thing of the future,” he adds. “Local waste disposal is a big part of that and they’ve got two local energy centres on the site, and that’s part of a whole shift in the way the mayor intends to have energy delivered.
“We’ll have far more local energy generation rather than getting everything off the grid, and a big chunk of East London, from the Olympics, will get that local heat and power system.”
» For more information, check out newlondonarchitecture.org
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Words: Tom Sturrock