The question of sustainability is one that has a habit of cropping up when critics discuss the mega-project that is the 2012 Olympics.
Some 24 construction projects have already been completed, including a £537 million Olympic Stadium and £269 million Aquatics Centre. The much-touted Olympic Village that will house 17,000 athletes and officials from over 200 countries, meanwhile, has just been sold to the property company owned by Qatar’s royal family at a loss of nearly £275 million.
So, as great swathes of East London are ‘regenerated’, large sums of money are changing hands. There has been an air of staunch earnestness to the Olympic Park Legacy Company’s (OPLC) intentions to engender viable long-term urban improvement, but many feel the vision will extinguish under financial pressures post-Games.
One thing that cannot be denied is that Stratford – and the greater East London area – has been commercially reinvigorated. After the closing ceremony of the Games, the Olympic Village itself will be repackaged, with sporting dormitories turned into 2,818 flats and houses, while 8,000 new homes will be built in five new neighbourhoods around the Olympic Park over the next ten years.
While some are worried about generic apartment buildings springing up en masse, the OPLC has outlined plans for low-rise terrace and mews houses with gardens, eschewing previously-mooted high-density complexes. But with only half of these properties being described as ‘affordable’ by Triathlon Homes, some are wondering just what these ‘Olympic communities’ will resemble in years to come.
The construction centrepiece, meanwhile, should leave a lasting impression. The Olympic Stadium will have a capacity of 80,000 seats, making it the third-largest stadium in Britain behind Twickenham and Wembley. An axonometric view of the building reveals its layered composition, with a demountable steel and concrete upper tier holding 55,000. It is the lightest Olympic Stadium on record, utilising surplus gas pipes for the roof truss and a moderate 10,000 tonnes of steel. A polythene wrap will encircle the stadium and will provide a ‘clear and memorable identity to the stadium’ according to Rod Sheard of architects Populous. Chemical company Dow are working on repurposing the panels for after the Games.
Ultimately, time will tell whether the Games’ legacy proves to be a lasting one. With the final bill for the Olympics dubbed ‘inherently uncertain’ by the National Audit Office, it is hoped that the monuments of London 2012 remain in use for a long time to come.