Sydney Olympic Park has evolved into a legacy success story, despite difficult initial years. Created through redeveloping industrial wasteland in Homebush Bay, it became the focal hub of the Olympic Games Sydney 2000.
Over the course of the Games, it attracted nearly five million spectators, visitors and workers to its cluster of world-class sporting facilities, ranging from the 110,000-capacity Olympic Stadium to the Sydney International Aquatic Centre and NSW Tennis Centre, all purpose-built for Sydney 2000.
The vision for Sydney Olympic Park’s future after the Games was to turn the site into a thriving town centre and residential community. In 2001, the Sydney Olympic Park Authority (SOPA) was established to ensure the Olympic Park became a valued asset.
Two decades on, the Olympic Park has come to represent a highly successful model for the post-Games use of Olympic venues. It receives more than 14 million visitors a year, is home to 230 businesses and has a daily community of approximately 21,600.
The business model put in place by the Sydney Olympic Park Authority has combined sport, commercial development and environmental awareness. The park hosts major events, ranging from the Big Day Out music festival to the Sydney International tennis tournament. Its success later influenced the development plans of future host cities, such as London in 2012.
However, the early transition years following Sydney 2000 were anything but straightforward. By 2003, a mere 1,500 workers had relocated to the brand-new office spaces within the park. Even tourism was sluggish and, with just 740,827 tourists visiting the park in 2005 – fewer than half the number who had visited in 2003 – it was in danger of being branded a failure.
Academics who studied the Olympic Park over the decade following Sydney 2000 believe the main factor in its change of fortunes was the transition from being a state-run space to one with increasing private-sector involvement.
This included the construction of more venues, taking its total to 12, along with a large exhibition pavilion, hotels, a private hospital and the continued revamping of the surrounding 172-hectare parklands, which have developed into one of the most visited recreational sites in New South Wales.
With a further AUD 2.7 billion committed to the park in new development projects as part of the Sydney Olympic Park Masterplan 2030, its future looks secure. The masterplan’s intention is to enable the park’s expansion to cater for a daily population of more than 50,000, in addition to tourists and event spectators, providing 6,000 new homes and more than 31,500 new jobs.
SOPA’s goal is to make the park carbon zero by 2030.