One of the central themes of London’s winning bid to host the 2012 Olympic Games was a legacy plan that promised to rejuvenate a run-down area of east London and “inspire a generation”. Aware of the failures of some previous Olympics – where stadiums have become abandoned grassy fields and where Olympic parks have fallen into deserted wastelands after the games – London promised to create a vibrant new community.
Mindful of the aftermath of the 2004 Athens Games and the huge cost of hosting a summer Olympics, great emphasis was placed on how London’s site would be integrated into the city after the event. Legacy plans were put in place for the majority of venues – many of which were demountable – and a clear plan to build housing and create jobs was devised.
The London 2012 Olympic Legacy is the longer-term benefits and effects of the planning, funding, building and staging of the Olympic and Paralympic Games in summer 2012. It is variously described as:
- economic – supporting new jobs and skills, encouraging trade, inward investment and tourism
- sporting – continuing elite success, development of more sports facilities and encouraging participation in schools sports and wider
- social and volunteering – inspiring others to volunteer and encouraging social change
- regeneration – reuse of venues, new homes, improved transportation, in East London and at other sites across the UK.
The main site of the games has been transformed into a public space that is larger than the country of Monaco. Now renamed the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, this 2.5 square kilometre stretch of parkland re-opened a year after the Games completed. It is now well-used by locals and hosts numerous events. In its first year the park welcomed 3.9 million visitors and to date (2017) over 15.2 million people have come to the new space!
The London 2012 Olympics were the first Games with a legacy plan already in execution well before the beginning of the event. The study conducted in the aftermath of the Olympics aimed at evaluating the legacies of this Olympic edition, with particular regard to the new public open spaces created and their sustainability. The research carried out a post-occupancy evaluation of the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, which is the main output of the 2012 Summer Olympics. Results show good achievements in terms of physical and social integration while the economic impact appears to be the weakest legacy from hosting the Games.
Read or download the assessment of the 2012 London Olympic Games Legacy
The city of London committed itself to produce something meaningful for its population after the Olympics ended. The London Games gave rise to a change of perspective, putting legacy and the post-event use of sports venues in the foreground.
First, there was a careful balance of permanent, already existing, and temporary venues and infrastructure. Permanent facilities were built only when beneficial to local communities. For example, London strongly needed a new aquatics complex, because the city had very few public swimming pools.
For this reason, a new aquatics centre was built for the Games, but utilizing a “flipped approach”: the venue was designed with a capacity of 2,500 seats, according to the needs in the legacy mode, but two temporary wings were added to fulfil the IOC requirement, and to increase the capacity to 17,500 seats. The wings were then removed after the Games.
From a physical point of view, before the Games, the Olympic park was a complex area, very disaggregated and fragmented, full of rivers and canals, and extremely polluted. The Olympics accelerated its regeneration and delivered a new public park and state-of-the-art venues, which are now accessible to local communities and all Londoners. An example is the Copper Box, a multi-use arena, which is used by local schools.
London showed there are ways to optimise the Olympics hosting and create beneficial legacies: using temporary facilities that are dismantled just after the event and devising a legacy plan instead of retrofitting.