This time eight years ago, London was getting ready to host the Olympic Games. They turned out to be one of the most successful Games in recent history for a variety of reasons:
- 8.8 million tickets were available for events, and on the busiest day over 3 million spectator journeys were made in London alone
- The opening ceremony had a global audience of 900 million
- Team GB and Paralympics GB were awarded 185 medals between them, placing Great Britain third on both medal tables
However, it is the transformation of the part of East London that hosted the Games that is the most enduring part of the success.
The bespoke Stadiums and arenas that were built, including the Aquatics Centre, the Copperbox, and Velodrome remain in constant use, having cleverly adapted to meet the needs of locals after the Olympians returned home. Affordable housing has replaced the Athletes village, with residents also being able to take advantage of the improved transport links that were made before the Games began.
On top of this, the Olympic Park Development Committee decided to leave a lasting green legacy. There are over 120,000 species of flowers, shrubs, trees and grasses growing in the Park. Various wildlife zones were created, one of which is a wetlands area. The boggy land helps sustains wildlife and to manage heavy rainfall by filtering and cleansing the rainwater before storing it for re-use in irrigation and toilet flushing. The developers have likened this to the job of human kidneys!
Insects thrive in the marshy conditions and in turn provide a rich food source for other birds and animals. The vegetation also provides shelter for mammals such as otters, and even water voles which are a threatened species, make their home here.
And the transformation isn’t finished. A new £1.1bn area of culture, education, innovation and growth – perhaps the 21st century equivalent of what must have happened in South Kensington after the Great Exhibition – is planned for this part of East London.
The aim is to have a centre for artistic excellence, academic learning, research, innovation, performance and exhibitions.
The main organisations that will have a presence here are the BBC, Sadlers Wells, UCL (University College London), UAL’s (University of the Arts London) College of Fashion and the V&A.