Olympic Park: A Life After the Games
London's Olympic Park will become a permanent addition to the landscape and a recreational and cultural urban hub.
The Olympics inspire grand visions. For London, host of this year’s Summer Games, that meant recycling 250 hectares of neglected industrial sites and polluted wetlands in the eastern part of the city. It’s one of the largest new urban parks in Europe in 150 years. Whether due to tight budgets or British understatement, the arenas themselves are comparatively restrained. But spectacle aplenty is supplied by art installations, including ArcelorMittal Orbit, a twisting, skeletal, 115-metre-high sculpture-cum-viewing-tower. Corporate pavilions push the envelope, too. Coca-Cola’s Beatbox is an interactive red-and-white swirl of abstraction and musical technology. BMW will display innovative autos in glass showcases with billowing roofs, clustered atop a platform surrounded by falling water.
The big question for Olympic cities is what happens when the Games are over. Often they inherit oversized stadia and transit lines to nowhere. London is aiming for a better legacy. The park will close after the Games for extensive renovation, and will reopen to the public in 2013. The 80,000-seat main stadium will be scaled back to hold 60,000, and the 17,500-seat Aquatics Centre will be downsized to a more realistic 2,500. Athletes’ accommodations will become residences, and five new neighbourhoods will be built on the park over the next 20 years. The park itself will be imaginatively reconfigured for sports, recreation and cultural events, and become, if all goes as planned, a revitalising green hub for surrounding neighbourhoods.