Now that the dust has settled over the Olympic Park, plans for the future of the venues and the Park itself are becoming more concrete. Here’s a rundown of the developments that we can expect to see in the next twelve to eighteen months as the area is reconfigured after the London 2012 Games:
The International Broadcast Centre & Main Press Centre
This huge white building at the Hackney Wick end of the Olympic Park is purported to be the size of One Canada Place (Canary Wharf tower as it is colloquially known) laid on its side. In order to support the massed ranks of journalists that used it during the Games it was equipped with a massive amount of IT infrastructure and connectivity.
iCity is the organisation selected by the London Legacy Development Corporation to develop new uses for the facility – at the present time there are plans to include spaces for new technology start-ups to rival ‘Silicon Roundabout’, training facilities for apprentices and possibly a research centre for one of the local universities. Much of the space will be given over to a new data centre, taking advantage of the 600km of fibre optic and copper cabling already installed in the structure.
Gavin Poole, iCity’s chief executive, said:
“The press and broadcast centre is one of the most digitally connected buildings in the world, providing an almost unlimited bandwidth connectivity. With the flourishing digital and creative industries sector just up the road, iCITY will extend the thriving technology cluster in east London onto the Olympic Park, creating over 6,500 jobs in the local communities and adding £460million to the national economy,”
The Olympic Stadium
Following legal wrangles that have involved the London Borough of Newham, West Ham and Tottenham football clubs it looks like a resolution might be on the horizon. Earlier this month, Sports Minister Hugh Robertson said that talks regarding the future of the Olympic Stadium should be concluded “in the next couple of weeks.”
Negotiations are taking place between the Mayor’s Olympic Park Legacy Company and four bidders, one of which is West Ham United. The Minister said that he was confident that “there is no danger of it being empty or a white elephant.” Let’s hope this optimism is justified – similar difficulties surrounding the Millenium Dome led to that lying fallow for nearly seven years.
The Athlete’s Village
Rebranded as East Village London E20, the apartments are currently in the process of being reconfigured. When that is concluded next year, E20 will become a new residential district with a mixture of privately-owned apartments, rented accommodation and social housing alongside a new school and medical centre (with a postcode that used to belong to Walford in the long-running Eastenders soap…).
The Aquatics Centre
Losing it’s rather ugly seating wings to reveal its original sinuous shape, the Aquatics Centre will reopen in mid-2013 as a new local leisure facility. It will be operated by Greenwich Leisure Limited who already run many of the public sports facilities across the capital.
When it reopens next year, the Velodrome will become the core of a new Lee Valley VeloPark, with new BMX, mountain bike and regular road cycle tracks alongside it. There will also be cycle-hire facilities, a cycle repair shop and the venue will house a cafe serving the new park.
The Copper Box
Twinned with the neighbouring Aquatics Centre, the Copper Box will be re-used as a new community sports centre for the surrounding boroughs. It will offer a wide range of activities including badminton, volleyball, basketball and other team sports. Again this facility will be run by Greenwich Leisure.
Visitors to the Olympic Games won’t know about these facilities – situated on the Leyton side of the Olympic Park the pitches here were used for several of the Paralympic sports. Post-games, two pitches will be devoted to hockey, hosting the England national hockey team, there will be ten five-a-side football pitches and a tennis centre will offer six outdoor and four indoor tennis courts. In addition to public use, these courts will also be the training facilities for Team GB’s paralympians going forward.
Open Spaces & The Orbit
So what of the peaceful grasslands and wildflower meadows that many visitors enjoyed relaxing in during the London 2012 Olympic Games? These will be expanded to become the new Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park which will cover over 250 acres when it is completed. Within it, spaces will be set aside for open-air concerts, street markets and so on as well as opening up miles and miles of waterways to the general public.
Unfortunately all of this will be off-limits until the summer of 2013 at the earliest, including Anish Kapoor’s Orbit structure – there are unsubstantiated rumours that he has been lobbying the Olympic Legacy Company to lay on buses which could ferry visitors to and from the Orbit so that people can enjoy the views from the top in the intervening period. If there’s any news on that we will let you know (but you’ll have to stand behind us in the queue to go up!).
The first scheduled event to take place in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park is RideLondon – a two-day road race which will take place on 3 and 4 August 2013.
It’s going to be a long time before we see the inside of the Park again – you can find a countdown for the reopening on the London Legacy Development Corporation’s website…