After the 17 days of competition, the London Olympics ended yesterday. Were you excited to see last night’s Closing Ceremony? What do you think of the Spice Girls?
The British government earmarked an extra $64.3 million to double budget for the opening and closing ceremonies for the celebration. The Olympics is about our hope that people across borders can be united under one roof in the spirit of sportsmanship.
But after all the competition and celebration, have you ever wondered what happens to Olympics sites after the events are over?
The other day, I found such a sad picture of Beijing’s deserted Olympics site. It has been four years since Beijing hosted a spectacular summer Olympics. As with every Olympics, China’s bustling capital prepared by vastly improving its public transportation and building extensive new infrastructure. However many of the venues built for the event have long since been neglected and, underused, draining public finances and seemingly being totally abandoned.
“The main “Bird’s Nest” stadium” and the “Water Cube” aquatics center were regarded as the crown jewels among other buildings that pleased many eyes and raised much attention globally. They were described by International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge as “beautiful” and “unprecedented” venues, and they certainly helped one billion sports enthusiasts get excited about the Olympics.
Yet today, the original purpose of both places has been forgotten, and now they are better known for the steady stream of curious tourists they attract — some 4.61 million people in 2011. While the Bird’s Nest now hosts the odd soccer match or track and field competition from time to time, it has also been the site of a “winter wonderland” theme park as well as concerts. The stadium’s management estimates that, at the current rate, it will take some three decades to recoup the three billion yuan ($480-million) cost of building it.
The neighboring Water Cube lost an estimated 11 million yuan last year, even with a state subsidy and revenue from an attached water park built after the Olympics to capitalize on its fame.
However, the London Olympics is becoming known as the most sustainable Olympics event ever hosted. One of the notable differences with past Olympics events is that the London Olympics has been the first to set up a London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) right from the start. LLDC is a public-sector, not-for-profit organization that is responsible for the long-term planning, development, management and maintenance of the Olympic Park and its facilities after the 2012 Games.
In May 2012, LLDC unveiled its plans for the opening of the future Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.
LLDC’s plan will see the park be transformed from an Olympics site into a brand-new piece of the city, right in the heart of London’s East End, in the 18 months following October 2012. By spring 2014, the 560-acre Olympic Park will become an exciting new visitor destination and community park, unlike any other in the U.K.
Historically, the East End has suffered from under-investment in both housing and infrastructure, and this is the reason for one of the recent initiatives to transform the area into a new community. The Olympic Park was created on former industrial land around the River Lea.
The mayor of London, Boris Johnson, had this to say about the park:
“Within a year of the close of the 2012 Games, the park will be ready to welcome not only another major sporting event, but also the thousands of residents and workers who will reap the benefits of this brand new district of the capital. The fantastic new sporting venues are only one part of the unfolding legacy story. The park will help drive the growth London needs to steer it out of recession and on to long term prosperity.”
The first area will re-open in July 2013 – exactly one year after the Olympics opening ceremony.
Recently there has been much criticism about the meaning of the Olympics. Flying thousands of athletes by jets to one city generates criticism globally in terms of a carbon footprint, and the event has become increasingly commercialized. The London Olympics has been also praised as the most sustainable, but, it is also reported that ticket sales have been disappointing.
While the city of London regards the overall event commercially unsuccessful in generating explosive sales, it might be disastrous if British officials are looking only at a short-term gain through this event. Fortunately, London has already a long-term plan: recycling the Olympics site to build a better community.
Hosting the Olympics to impress other member of nations is passé. What has become more important is to focus on the long-term goal of creating a space for the local community using the Games as an opportunity. We need to learn how to incorporate the growth of communities after each Olympics and look forward to this after the big event.
What do you think of the plan for site of the London Olympics?