With the Olympic Games approaching, East London is undergoing a dramatic change that will provide a lasting legacy and enhance future opportunities for those who live in the shadows of the Olympic Park. The latest edition of the Olympic Review has visited the city of the London 2012 Olympic Games.
Six years ago, when news broke of London’s successful bid to host the 2012 Olympic Games, work immediately began on laying the foundations for a legacy that would have a lasting impact far beyond the Closing Ceremony on 12 August 2012.
A wealth of benefits
The tangible benefits of that work are already visible around the UK – and in particular in the East End of London, transforming what has been one of Europe’s most impoverished areas. After the Games, the infrastructure, environment, public amenities, transport links and job opportunities in east London will have changed beyond recognition. There will also be a wealth of benefits available to the wider London community, such as cross-city transport improvements, as well as more training and job opportunities for the UK, and the chance for a vast array of businesses to be involved.
The Olympic Park in London. Copyright: LOCOG
The Olympic Park
The Olympic Park is the largest new urban park to be created in Europe for more than 150 years, while the Village itself – where athletes and officials will stay during the Games – will be converted into homes, many available for key workers such as teachers and nurses. Further housing will also be built on the Olympic Park site after the Games.
Lee Valley White Water Centre. Copyright: LOCOG
World-class sports venues, such as the Lee Valley White Water Centre will be, and already are in some instances, used by sports clubs and the local community as well as elite athletes. They will be adapted where necessary and new playing fields will be created for community use.
A range of transport improvements serving the Park are already underway, including an extension to the Docklands Light Railway (DLR), increased capacity on the London Underground’s Jubilee Line and the upgrade of Stratford Station. The communities surrounding the Park will enjoy access to the open space via a network of canal towpaths, footpaths and cycleways.
Job and training opportunities for local people
Thousands of new jobs will be created in the Park alone. Job and training opportunities will be created for local people, and local residents will be engaged in the planning of the Games and the benefits that the project will bring afterwards. Staging the Olympic Games in 2012 has rapidly accelerated the regeneration of east London, delivering a massive £2 billion boost to the capital’s economy, in addition to the wider jobs and skills legacy being delivered through 2012 Games programmes, which are putting more than 25,000 people into new jobs. In addition, 400 apprentices have been trained on the Olympic Park site, a further 40,000 training places have been provided and 50,000 people have received support to get back into work.
Andrew Altman, Chief Executive of the Olympic Park Legacy Company, says: “The combination of the shopping centre and the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park will generate an unprecedented number of opportunities. We are working to expand the training being delivered so it can also meet some of the future job opportunities on the Park. By mapping out these opportunities now with training providers, we hope to give local people the best possible chance to benefit.”
Inside the Olympic Stadium. Copyright: LOCOG
Tangible benefits of the Games
The London 2012 Olympic Games will leave a range of key socio-economic legacies at both national and local level in the fields of culture, sport, volunteering, business and tourism. Local examples already showing the tangible benefits of the Games include John F Kennedy Special School, which is just 800 metres from the Olympic Stadium. The school provides education to some of the most disabled children in Newham but has recently experienced financial difficulties and has struggled with the upkeep of its facilities. Largely because of its proximity to the Olympic Village, it inspired The Lord’s Taverners – the UK youth cricket and disability sport charity – to try and make a positive difference by helping children improve their lives using physical activity. JFK is just one of 12 schools around the country that is set to receive funding to install sensory rooms and therapeutic swimming pools before the start of the Olympic Games.
Matthew Patten, Chief Executive of The Lord’s Taverners, says: “We hope to communicate the great things about the Olympic Games to people who have real challenges with communications. And that’s what led The Lord’s Taverners, inspired by the Olympic Games, to create sensory rooms for children who have a profound disability – to improve their lives and their senses through physical activity. The 12 sensory rooms around the country will be there during the Olympic Games, the week after, the year after and 10 years after. Thousands of young people in the UK will benefit from them. The work that is being done with JFK School to improve the facilities available would not have happened without the Olympic Games coming to town.”
A regeneration for the whole area up to, and beyond the Games
Robert Harding, Olympic Project Officer at the Environment Agency, says: “The London 2012 Games have been a catalyst for major investment in that part of east London and to regenerate the whole area up to, and beyond the Games. This time next year the focus of the world will be on that part of east London and I think we will put on a fantastic show. The Environment Agency has played a regulatory role in all of the activities involved with ground and water, remediation and planning associated with all of the venue construction and re development of the parklands. The Olympic project has brought that land back into long-term use. Lots of money has been invested in the clean-up to enable the London 2012 Olympic Delivery Authority to create something to behold for the future.”
Olympic gold medallist Denise Lewis OBE with state-of-the-art equipment donated by GE in the new maternity and newborn centre at Homerton Hospital. Copyright: LOCOG
The official hospital for the Games has received £4.8m worth of equipment for its maternity and newborn centre, donated by global Olympic Partner GE. The hospital has invested more than £12.5m in the centre, which has doubled in size to become one of the best-equipped in the country. It now has 22 cots in a special care baby unit, 20 cots in a neonatal intensive care unit, 16 en-suite birthing rooms, two birthing pools, en-suite family accommodation and 32 antenatal and nine post-natal beds.
Daniel Waldron, General Manager at Homerton Hospital, says: “We now have a state-of-the-art maternity and neonatal unit. Not only are people coming here and enjoying the physical space of this fantastic environment, but we also have the best equipment as well. As a result of the legacy of the Games, Hackney can now provide the best medical service, and that has already begun to touch people. Those who live in the shadows of the Olympic stadium can be proud – the local hospital on their doorstep has been given a donation that means it can offer world-class healthcare.”