2012 Olympic Games Give Unique Opportunity for Regeneration
John Armitt CBE, Chairman of the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA), spoke of the unique social and cultural opportunities that the 2012 London Olympic Games present, when he addressed the Greencoat Forum in the London Centre of the Initiatives of Change on 7 April. He was speaking on ‘Trust and integrity in the Olympic ideal’. ODA is responsible for the construction of the Olympic site and stadiums which, said Armitt, are due to be completed in 2011. His evening talk was co-hosted by Caux Initiatives for Business.
The site in Stratford, east London, covers an area of about 650 acres—roughly the size of Hyde Park. It is surrounded by four of the most diverse, and deprived, boroughs in London: Hackney, Newham, Waltham Forest and Tower Hamlets, where over a hundred languages are spoken in the local schools and where unemployment runs at 12 to 15 per cent.
John Armitt spoke of his hope that the 2012 Games will come to be known as the ‘regeneration Olympics’. ‘You can’t justify spending £8 billion on a party but you can justify it if you are achieving a massive social and physical regeneration of a very deprived area,’ he said.
He spoke of the challenges that the London Development Agency (LDA) faced when acquiring the Stratford site. As the site was home to a number of businesses, gardening allotments and a community of travellers, a process of inclusive negotiation was needed to find alternative solutions. Businesses were relocated to nearby sites and were happy with their upgraded facilities and the allotment owners and travellers were also provided with alternative facilities.
In a commitment to make the 2012 Olympics the most ‘environmentally friendly and sustainable’ games, Armitt said that 95 per cent of the material that was removed from the site during the demolition was recycled as opposed to being sent to land fill sites. There was also a process of soil washing to decontaminate and recycle nearly 1 million cubic metres of soil to recover 75 per cent of the soil. The Olympic Village will also have its own energy centre on the site which will be fired by 20 per cent biomass, providing the heating and cooling for the Olympics.
As part of the regeneration policy, Armitt spoke of the infrastructure ‘legacies’ of the Olympic games. Of the 3,000 apartments that are being built to house the athletes 30 per cent will become affordable housing for local people after the Games, with planning permission for another 6,000 apartments. Local transportation, particularly the Docklands Light Railway (DLR) is being improved and expanded.
By far the greatest structural legacy, however, will be the modern, cutting edge sporting facilities that will help future generations of athletes to train for the Olympics. These include the athletics and aquatic stadiums and a velodrome for cyclists, as well as a temporary basketball stadium. Swimmers training for the Beijing Olympics had had to travel to Leeds and Sheffield as there was no Olympic sized pool in the south of England. Armitt hoped that the new improved facilities will inspire future generations to get involved in sport, promoting exercise and wellbeing.
Armitt also spoke of the ‘Olympic values and ideals’ that are at the centre of all the design and construction phases of the Olympic project. Jobs for local people have had a great impact given that nine per cent of those working on the Stratford site were previously unemployed. In a drive for new skills, 300 people were taught to drive dumper trucks with vehicles donated by JCB and funded by the National Construction College. Of the 300, 200 have been subsequently employed on the Olympic site, illustrating how business can be socially responsible and create real opportunities for local people. There has also been in depth consultation with members of the disabled community to ensure that access is considered in the design process. Children in local schools have also had the opportunity to get involved in the design process. Elected ‘Olympic Ambassadors’ have had the chance to learn about the design and construction process and report back to their schools. For Armitt such inclusive policies shouldn’t finish after the Olympics are over; they should be central in the future conduct of business.
He said that the Olympic ideals were ‘the right ones for conducting ourselves and conducting our businesses’. The whole issue of inspiration was important to all those involved in the preparation of the Games, which are ‘an opportunity for people to better themselves’.
by Cheryl Gallagher
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