With the London 2012 Olympic Games now a vivid and wonderful memory, attention has now turned to the legacy the Games will leave behind.
The history of the Olympic Games (both Summer and Winter) has been surprisingly weak with respect to legacy. It is only in recent years that the International Olympic Committee (“IOC”) has formally considered legacy as a key consideration in awarding the Olympic Games to a candidate city. Prior to this change in focus, a Bid City had only to consider and specifically detail its plans to the actual staging of the Games.
The memories of many previous Games are still vivid, particularly in the minds of taxpayers! The venues and infrastructure costs resulting from the staging of the 1976 Olympic Games were a burden around the citizens of Quebec for upwards of 30 years. It is only within the past few years that all debts resulting from the Montreal Games were retired.
The 1984 Games in Los Angeles put the IOC and the Olympic movement back ‘on-track’ as no public funding was allocated to staging the event. With an eye solely on the financial ‘ball’ the Games literally saved the Olympic movement. While the Games were an enormous success in many ways, they were not a Games rooted in providing a long-lasting physical legacy.
The Olympic Games in Sydney in 2000 were judged by many to be the ‘best-ever’ Olympic Games. No one can argue with the success of the Games as the world’s attention was placed squarely on the City and Australia. Since the Games, many of the venues located in the Sydney Olympic Park have struggled financially and not provided the economic boom anticipated prior to the Games.
The 2004 Games in Athens have been plagued by underutilized and, in some cases, abandoned venues.
The 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing were organized and staged for geopolitical reasons in addition to having the world concentrate its attention on the sporting action during the Games. The Games organizers had little interest in the long-term legacy of the major Games venues, in particular the ‘Bird’s Nest’ Stadium. It is a rarely used for sporting events and is almost exclusively a spot for interested tourists to visit. The other notable Beijing venue, the ‘Water Cube’ Aquatic Complex has been converted to a water park, which appeals to the general public but has little sport legacy.
The London Games have set an example for future summer games bid and host cities to follow. Called by some as the ‘temporary’ Games, London 2012 has learned well from other host cities and staged events in fully temporary venues (including the indoor basketball hall), existing venues and new facilities.
In a previous ‘blog’ I mentioned Cannon Design’s contribution to the London Games by your development of the initial design concepts for many of London’s ‘temporary’ venues including Horse Guards Parade (Beach Volleyball), Hyde Park (Triathlon), Greenwich Park (Equestrian) , Lords Cricket Ground (Archery) and Earls Court (Volleyball).
London also temporarily expanded the newly constructed Aquatic Centre by enclosing over 15,000 temporary seats in a temporary structure. Post-Games, the Aquatic Centre will house the Olympic pools and be the ‘community’ swimming facility for the residents leaving around the Lea Valley Olympic Park site.
The concept of temporarily expanding an aquatic centre may seem new, but the initial concept goes back almost two decades. In the early 1990’s in my role with the 1994 Commonwealth Games, we installed temporary seats in the newly constructed Saanich Commonwealth Place to host the Games events, which were removed post-event. The facility not only included competition pools (where some 15 years after the Commonwealth Games, 7 world records were set at an international meet), but shallow water recreational and play water to encourage use by the entire community.
The concept of legacy is not restricted to the Summer Games. The Olympic Winter Games have experienced its share of ‘white elephant’ facilities. Arguably, the most difficult venue to develop a legitimate and long-lasting legacy is the indoor long-track speed skating venue. Having worked on four Olympic Ovals, including the first indoor Oval in Olympic history, we have learned much about creating an outstanding Games venue that is also a highly used facility post-Games. The Oval has gone through a significant transformation after the successful staging of the winter games competitions in February 2010. The building now is truly a high performance and community sport and recreation centre. Not only does the building’s activity floor (where gold medals were won and lost in 2010) contain two international ice rinks but also 8 basketball/volleyball courts and a 200 m running track and martial arts area. Also contained in the building is 25,000 sq. ft. of fitness space, multi-purpose rooms and even an indoor rowing tank. The Richmond Olympic Oval, which hosted Olympic speed skaters from around the world now attracts over one million user visits per year from local residents as well as high performance athletes from across British Columbia, Canada and abroad. I will write more about the legacy of the Richmond Oval in a future blog.
Susan Welker, AIA - 18 May 2013
Exactly! I did research during my Masters in Architecture about how more w...
Yen Cao - 15 May 2013
Way to go Brian! Congrats.
Air Monitoring - 15 May 2013
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Don Wesley - 14 May 2013
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Bob Farwell - 13 May 2013
Sara: Congratulations! I have always been impressed by your talents,work e...