London’s surprising win that morning was attributed to its focus on urban regeneration and legacy: perhaps the first time an Olympic bid had specifically presented the Games as merely the warm up for a longer-term rejuvenation.
Bill Hanway is executive director of operations at AECOM and behind the master planning for the 2012 Games. ‘We decided not to speak about the architectural wonders of the Games but focus instead on the total outcome the Games could deliver for London, and in particular East London, which has a range of social challenges and economic deprivation,’ he says.
Or, as Mike Taylor, senior partner at Hopkins Architects and designer of the Velodrome puts it: ‘We thought of the Games as a kind of housewarming party.’
This month, after almost 10 years of planning, the party is ready to begin. But when the celebrations are over and the hangovers clear, what will Londoners find? Will we see an East London regeneration that has the hallmarks of Barcelona’s transformation, or an empty and bedraggled temple to hubris of Athenian proportions?
Hanway says legacy is enshrined in the project. ‘Right from the beginning, legacy was a strategic decision. We never drew up a plan that was just an Olympic plan. There was always also a transition plan and a legacy plan. For example, we made sure that infrastructure was in the right place for legacy use, not just for the Games; that roads were placed where they’d be needed after the Olympics,’ he says.
It’s clear that legacy has played a key role in the design of the main venues. The Zaha Hadid-designed Aquatics Centre will have a capacity for 17,500 spectators during the Games, reduced to a maximum of 2,500 post-Games. The two clumsy wings on either side (which house additional seating but detract from the centre’s visually pleasing wave shape) will take 10 months to dismantle, after which the centre will provide two 50m swimming pools for public