July 27, 2012 marks the opening ceremonies of the London 2012 Summer Olympic Games. As the Olympics approach closer, the eyes of the world will inevitably turn to London and its new infrastructure. Over the past 12 months, the Olympic Park in London’s struggling east side has changed dramatically. With the structures of the main sporting venues complete, you can now get a real feel for the layout of the park and the compact nature of the site. More images and information after the break.
A primary focus of the London Olympics was what the park will be used for after the games, a problem that past Olympic cities, such as Barcelona, Sydney, and Athens, have struggled with. The London 2012 Games offers a unique opportunity to revitalize the Lower Lea Valley, transforming one of the most underdeveloped areas of the UK into a benchmark 21st century urban environment that reflects the diverse and lively population of the region.
After the Games, the Olympic Park will be transformed into one of the largest urban parks created in Europe for more than 150 years. The new park will be connected to the tidal Thames Estuary to the south and the Hertfordshire countryside to the north. The canals and waterways of the River Lea will be cleaned and widened, and the natural floodplains of the area will be restored to provide a new wetland habitat for wildlife, which birdwatchers and ecologists can enjoy.
With sustainability being a main theme of the 2012 Olympics, the plan was to only make permanent structures that will have long-term use after the Games, while building temporary structures for everything else that will be utilized during the ceremonies. The world-class sports facilities will be adapted by sports clubs and the local community as well as elite athletes. For example, Zaha Hadid’s aquatic center will be the gateway to the Olympic Park, having a capacity of 17,500 seats during the games and reduced to 2,500 seats in legacy providing elite and community facilities including two 50 meter swimming pools and a diving pool. A comparable reduction will take place in the Olympic stadium where 55,000 temporary seats will be removed, leaving 25,000 permanent seats to create a more intimate atmosphere for future events.
With regards to dismantling venues, the basketball arena will be a showcase temporary venue in the Olympic Park. After the games, two-thirds of the materials and elements of the arena can be reused or recycled.
The Olympic Village, where athletes and official will stay during the Games, will be converted into homes, many available for the workforce such as teachers and nurses. Along with the new homes in the Olympic Village, further housing will be built on the Olympic Park site after the Games. Moreover, riverside housing, shops, restaurants, and cafes will provide new amenities for the local community.
However, there are some doubts with the Olympic Games’ progress on environmental issues. The Commission for a Sustainable London 2012 released a report expressing some serious uncertainties. “With few exceptions, there is no comprehensive plan for new waste management in east London or for Olympic Park’s so-called blueprint for sustainable living,” the report says, which were big selling points for London to host the Olympics in the first place. “Having an Olympics is an inherently unsustainable thing to do. To build all this stuff to watch some people run around…what’s sustainable about that?” commission head Shaun McCarthy said. “We have to ask ourselves is it good enough just to have some great sustainable venues and put on a sustainable games which we are increasingly confident about, or will the Olympics really make a difference?”