In the run-up to the 10th anniversary of the London 2012 Olympics (it’s been a decade already?), there’s an exhibition looking at how the legacy of those games has left its mark in Stratford.
It’s a fairly small exhibition, and does at times feel more like a property developer’s sales pitch at a public consultation about how wonderful an industrial site will be when it’s filled with blocks of flats. And to be fair, that’s pretty much what has been built here, taking an area of fairly shabby light industry and turning it into a large leisure site surrounded by blocks of flats and a huge new shopping centre.
There’s a video on a loop that lasts about 3 minutes and a few items from the Olympics themselves, mainly a glass case with the torches and medals, and around one corner, a piece of the running track to stroke. There are lots of facts about the park dotted around the exhibition, such as that it’s the size of 300 football pitches, and as there’s a football pitch in the park, that was probably an easy one to calculate.
Otherwise, it’s a bit of a sales pitch for the legacy operations. Not to say that’s a bad thing, as hosting the Olympics games and also making a success of what happens to the sites doesn’t always happen, with plenty of examples of former sports areas becoming derelict wastes.
The reasons for London’s success, which isn’t explored in detail here alas, is down a lot to the pre-planning stages when in effect there were two mindsets at work from the start. One to put on a sports event, and the other to develop a housing estate, and both mindsets worked together from the start.
I have a document, published by the Olympic Delivery Authority in January 2007 about the design principles for the Olympic Park, and while not everything was carried out, as some things need to change to reflect changing demands, it’s impressive how much pre-games thinking went into the post-games construction. Utilities and services were built for the games but also designed to be optimal for their post-games use as well. I was always struck by how their planning for street furniture – lighting, seating etc — was based on how they would be used after the crowds left, with some built as permanent facilities, and the rest installed for the games, but designed to be moved to the residential areas that were to be built after the games.
I think that’s a much more interesting story, and one that is missing from this exhibition. Maybe that’s one for the future.
The exhibition is inside the Lee Valley VeloPark, which also gives you an excuse to go inside and see the cycling arena when there’s hardly anyone there. I also found out that there’s a cafe inside the building overlooking the cycling track, which seems to be open all the time the building is open.
The exhibition in the Lee Valley VeloPark is open until September, so best get there before the end of August in case “until September” means closing on 31st August. It’s free, and open 9am-6pm daily.
After the past few years we’ve had, look at it as a chance to remember happier times.