LAUSANNE, July 26, 2013 - At first glance, Olympic champions Jessica Ennis and
Usain Bolt may not appear to have much in common with musical superstars Justin
Timberlake and Bruce Springsteen. But there is at least one thing they share:
all four have thrilled visitors to London’s Olympic Park – a connection that
hints at the transformative power of the Olympic Games.
A year has passed since the 2012 London Games captivated
a global audience and raised spirits throughout Britain, but the legacy of those
17 days continues to deliver lasting benefits. For Londoners, the 27 July anniversary
of the Opening Ceremony is not just a time to relive exciting memories; it is
an opportunity to celebrate the many improvements that the Games helped produce.
For these Games were not just about a few weeks of
incredible sporting endeavour. The Olympic Games, wherever they take place in
the world, are a focal point for long-term changes, not only in a sporting sense
but also in terms of economic and social regeneration. It is a crucial factor
that all future Olympic host cities – including the Candidate Cities looking to
host the 2020 Olympic Games (Istanbul, Tokyo and Madrid) – are encouraged to
pay close attention to from the outset of the bid process.
London’s success in using the Games as a catalyst for
positive change shows what can happen when good intentions are matched by good
planning. The London experience is particularly instructive amid the current debate
over the value of mega sporting events.
The anniversary celebration at the new Queen Elizabeth
Olympic Park will coincide with the official opening of the first phase of a far-sighted
redevelopment project that will transform the former heart of the Games into a
model for urban living. The result will include acres of verdant parkland,
about 11,000 new homes, a new school and medical clinic, 75km of hiking and cycling
trails, nearly two million square feet of retail and entertainment areas, and several
world-class sporting venues — all on what had been an industrial wasteland.
The revamped Olympic Park is already proving its value
as a sustainable driver of economic growth. Planners expect the Park to draw
more than nine billion visitors by 2016. Crowds have flocked to recent concerts
by Timberlake, Springsteen and other well-known performers. Sports fans will
turn out in droves when sprinter Bolt, champion distance runner Mo Farrah and
other medallists from the 2012 Games return to the site of their previous
victories for three days of high-level competition during the anniversary.
The Anniversary Games is the first of many top-tier
sporting events that will continue to draw crowds to the Olympic Stadium and
other 2012 venues. Other events include the 2015 European Hockey Championships
and the 2017 World Athletics Championships, the latter of which will take place
in the Olympic Stadium, which also serves as the new home for the English
Premier League’s West Ham United Football Club under a 99-year lease.
Other former Olympic venues will welcome visitors of
all ability levels, building on the heightened interest in grassroots sport
that the Games inspired. The Aquatics Centre will be open to the local
community and schools, in addition to hosting major national and European
competitions. The Copper Box will serve as a multi-use sports and entertainment
arena. The VeloPark will be used by recreational cyclists as well as elite
competitors. All eight Olympic venues have legacy tenants.
But the Games legacy extends far beyond the former
Olympic Park. The Games inspired or accelerated a host of transport investments
that will benefit residents and visitors for years to come. GBP 6.5 billion
was invested in new and improved transport infrastructure, including new rail
lines, line extensions, station/platform improvements, increased capacity, and
improved cycling and pedestrian routes.
After generating tens of
thousands of jobs during the construction phase in the midst of the global
recession, the Games continue to foster economic growth. The Games have already resulted in
an increase of GBP 9.9 billion in trade and investment in the UK, further
strengthening its international business legacy. The success of London 2012 has also created
opportunities for UK companies to assist with the 2014 Sochi Olympic Winter Games
and the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro.
Local organisers of future Olympic host cities have
heeded the lessons of London 2012’s legacy vision. Citizens of Rio, for
example, are already benefitting from a new rapid transport line, with three
more to come in addition to a new metro line. Many other legacy initiatives are
also under way in Sochi, and in PyeongChang, host of the 2018 Olympic Winter
Games in South Korea.
These positive outcomes do not happen spontaneously.
The International Olympic Committee puts a strong emphasis on legacy planning
in its work with host cities. The organisers of the London Games proved that
visionary leadership and close cooperation with government officials ensure
that investments in the Olympic Games will deliver returns long after the Closing