Join our Olympics campaign
By Richard Garlick Monday, 12 July 2010
With two years until the 2012 Games, little time remains to ensure that they generate the promised regeneration benefits. We need your support to keep the onus on the Olympics' organisers to deliver.
Baroness Ford, chair of the Olympic Park Legacy Company, is charged with developing the main Games site after 2012. She believes that the company needs control of the land, and not to be burdened by big debts, if it is to create a place where people will want to live, work and visit for leisure. After months of talks, the previous government agreed just such an arrangement earlier this year. Now, however, its successor says that it wants to review the deal, as part of its cost-efficiency drive. Ford expressed her frustration to the BBC last week. "It prevents us going to the last stage, for example in negotiations to sell the stadium," she said. "We need the freedom to go ahead and cut all of these deals. Nobody wants these venues left empty."
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Ford is absolutely right to say that everyone wants to see the Olympic Park put to good use after the Games, and legacy benefits maximised locally and nationally. But, as she is finding with the land deal, other considerations often seem to get in the way.
Experts on the impact of previous major sporting events warned that this might happen in the immediate aftermath of the bid being won. As construction deadlines and financial pressures grew, they said, there was a danger that the original regeneration objectives of the Games would become clouded by other considerations.
We agreed that this was a danger. In 2006, one year after the bid was won, we launched our Fair Games campaign. The objectives of the campaign were to maintain the onus on the Government, the London mayor and the other authorities responsible for delivering the Olympics to honour the commitments that they had made to ensure that the Games bring genuine social, economic and environmental regeneration, both locally and nationally.
Ever since, we have closely monitored progress against the goals through our news coverage and an annual in-depth special report.
We have never doubted that those involved in delivering the Games want to see them generate a social, economic and environmental legacy in east London and the rest of the country. But our concern was that other factors would assume even greater importance in the organisers' list of priorities.
Disappointingly, these fears have often seemed well-grounded over the past few years. The timetable for crucial decisions about the legacy of the Games has constantly been put back. As Ford battles to get into a position where she can resolve the legacy use of the stadium, it is sobering to recall that one of the original planning conditions for the Olympic Park was that ground should not be broken until legacy uses had been agreed. Subsequent changes to the Games planning application mean that the condition no longer applies, but it shows how far the original vision of an Olympics development built to fit in with the legacy plan, rather than vice-versa, has slipped.
Progress on the agreement of performance indicators to measure the Games' effectiveness in delivering regeneration has also been depressingly slow. In 2006, when we began the campaign, the Government said they would appear "within months". In fact, it was only last year that a comprehensive list of government-backed indicators appeared, enshrining the so-called "convergence" concept that the Games should mean that living conditions for residents of the five host boroughs should be brought into line with the London average by 2030.
By then, of course, the vast majority of the Olympics construction budget had been allocated, if not already spent. That is not to underestimate the value of the targets and the convergence concept, which has been built into London mayor Boris Johnson's economic strategy and draft London Plan, as well as informing central government and host borough policies. But they will need plenty of political support to have any impact. Critics have already pointed to a lack of detail about how the objectives will be achieved, and the host boroughs have had to admit that promised action plans have been delayed until 2011.
This is just one example of why we feel it is important to maintain the pressure on the relevant authorities to ensure that the 2012 Olympics are genuinely the "regeneration games" that were promised. For that reason, we are seeking to inject new momentum into the Fair Games campaign. To reflect the progress that has been made in the past four years, we have refined the goals of the campaign down to one objective:
"We call on the Games' organisers, including the Government, the London mayor and delivery and legacy bodies, to honour the commitments that have been made to ensure that the Games bring genuine social, economic and environmental regeneration, both locally and nationally".
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