The morning after the London Olympics’ closing ceremony, an explosive display of pyrotechnics, acrobatics, and Spice Girls, the athletes have packed their bags, Posh Spice has reassumed her identity as Victoria Beckham, and the Olympic Park is now blocked off and deserted. But what about all that infrastructure?
London mayor Boris Johnson reassured skeptics that the city won’t be falling victim to that costly curse of disuse that usually befalls the white elephants left behind in the Olympics’ wake (see $15 billion worth of venues in Greece, now overgrown with weeds, or Beijing’s Water Cube swimming complex, which cost the 2008 host city $1.7 million last year). In a press conference last week, Johnson unveiled the city’s plans to transform the sprawling Olympic Park into a community for use by civilians, or, in his words, “use the catalyst of the games to attract investment into the wealth of opportunities arising in London now and in the coming years… there is no other place on the planet where investors will see greater returns.” After pumping $15 billion into the Games themselves, London will invest another $470 million to transform the Olympic site into the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, a 560-acre neighborhood.
Over the next 20 years, 8,000 new homes are scheduled to be built (in addition to the existing 2,800 in the athletes’ village), along three health centers, and, assuring that the children of East London will be well cared for, three schools, nine nurseries, and 29 playgrounds. Other amenities include the miles of bike paths and acres of wildlife habitat, and an occasional dip at the Zaha Hadid-designed Aquatics Center, where the cost of admission will be the same as at the local leisure center.
The new park is scheduled to open in phases, beginning July 27, 2013, exactly a year after the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Games.