London Legacy Development Corp.
After the Olympics, the Park Must Live On
Once the London Olympic Games have concluded, the risk of leaving behind disused venues is great. How does London plan to turn Olympic Park into a future community landmark and favored tourist destination?
After the Olympics, the Park Must Live OnBy Yueh-lin Ma
From CommonWealth Magazine (vol. 497 )
Once the grand competition has come to an end, the question of how to prevent Olympic venues, sites of a brief moment of shining glory, from falling into disuse has been a shared headache of each Olympic organizing country and city.
In May of 2009 the City of London formed the non-profit Olympic Park Legacy Company (OPLC), tasked with keeping Olympic Park and its associated venues operational as part of a greater urban renewal project after the 2012 London Olympic Games have concluded later this summer.
Once the Games are over, operation and management of Olympic Park and its venues were to be handed over to the OPLC.
Last month, in the name of greater operational and financial transparency, the OPLC was restructured as the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC).
The new entity is directly answerable to the London mayor's office, LLDC director of venues Peter Tudor informs CommonWealth Magazine, further explaining that as a non-profit official organization responsible for the operating profits or losses of the Olympic venues, the corporation will be more tightly bound to London's future urban development efforts.
Tudor outlines his company's objectives in three stages: "clean, connect and complete."
After the Games, Olympic Park will be temporarily closed for reorganization. A year later the 560-acre (about 2.5 sq km) site will reopen with a new look.
The "cleaning" phase of the plan entails demolition and clearing of some venues. From the outset, the London Olympic Organizing Committee iterated that the defining planning and design principle for the entire Olympic Park would be to "retain only those venues needed."
After the Games, the vast majority of venues will be either partially or completely demolished and cleared away in accordance with the daily living and recreational demands of the communities involved.
The "connecting" phase will entail linking up with local community development projects. One of the most important missions of the LLDC has been establishing lines of communication with local residents.
"Many people think that after the Games the park immediately belongs to everybody; people have very high expectations," Tudor says. But in reality, it is impossible to fulfill everyone's hopes and imaginations. "We need to make sure people understand the situation and manage their expectations."
Aside from community outreach, other important tasks in which the LLDC and its predecessor organization have been involved over the past three years have been studying local community needs, information gathering and comparative analysis. Only through such due diligence is it possible to design an Olympic environment that is both sustainable and beneficial to local communities while raising the quality of life in those communities.
LLDC will continue to comparatively evaluate statistics for East London, West London and the whole of Britain, include average life expectancies, median incomes, employment rates and commodity prices, Tudor explains. The aim is to realistically evaluate whether the Olympic-related urban renewal program has actually improved the lives of East Londoners. That will be the greatest significance of the Olympic Legacy.
Draw of Royal Prestige, Philips Light Show
Given its intended use as a recreational facility for residents of East London, a relatively less prosperous area of the city, the price of admission will need to be kept low. Although the government will subsidize a portion of the costs, the LLDC will need to aggressively explore other sources of financing in the interest of sustainable operation and balancing the bottom line.
After the Games, Olympic Park will be renamed "Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park."
The Queen's willingness to allow the use of her name is something Tudor finds particularly gratifying, and he is optimistic this alone will make the park an even greater tourist draw.
Tudor has also been proactive in seeking out cash-rich companies to take up residence in some of the park's buildings, and to assist the surrounding communities.
The ArcelorMittal Orbit, a 115-meter-high observation tower within Olympic Park, is now Britain's largest piece of public art. While critics have been sharply divided on the artistic merits of the tower, its observation platforms have been projected as attracting an average of 3,000 tourists daily.
In addition, this large-scale sculpture will be the venue for three different light shows every night – an attraction that was sponsored by Philips, Tudor notes with pride.
Tudor is a former general manager of Wembley Arena and, as such, is a first-rate event promoter and ticket vendor.
But the focus of his new job is quite different, he insists. This time he is working to "make a difference."
Leaving behind a legacy of new opportunity for future generations is the common objective of both Peter Tudor and the City of London.
Translated from the Chinese by Brian Kennedy