Following major events such as the Olympics, host cities face the challenge of maintaining the structures built specifically for these events and integrating them into the current built environment.
While meeting this goal would ideally be a common occurrence, modern Olympic Games have often been lambasted for failing to provide an architectural legacy. While many point to Barcelona as a key example of ‘white elephant’ Olympic infrastructure, Australia’s own Sydney Olympic venues have also proved to be a less-than-lucrative investment.
According to a study by Monash University academic economists James A. Giesecke and John R. Madden, the overall loss of private and public consumption comes in at $2.1 billion, with the upfront venue development costs sitting at $1.9 billion, leading to the conclusions that the Olympic facilities did not offer great return on investment.
While the Olympics often leave in their wake a legacy of unsustainable, overly-ambitious architecture, London Mayor Boris Johnson says the 2012 Olympic Games are a far different story.
“The difference between London and others is that we’ve taken amazing care with our legacy preparations,” Johnson. “We are unlike other host cities at this stage, where six of the eight venues already have their futures assured.”
Response was mixed with respect to the London Olympic’s overall green ambitions and how this was delivered, particularly in terms of renewable energy use.
According to Head of Sustainability David Stubbs, however, the city’s greatest green achievement is yet to come: the sustainable nature of the new Olympic venue buildings – whether they be temporary structures or easily convertible spaces – and, perhaps more importantly, the rigorous legacy provisions already coming into play.
“We have kept the spirit, and in most cases the letter, of what was promised, and we will leave a long-term legacy that is positive, environmentally,” he says. “To use a footballing analogy, we did not necessarily win every match but we did win the league.”
Projects such as the temporary basketball stadium, energy efficient and convertible aquatics centre and the major Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park redevelopment plans already set a basis for incorporating infrastructure into the built environment in a way that optimises functionality and sustainability.
According to London’s Mayor and many industry commentators, the white elephant legacy stops with London. Time will tell whether these claims are justified, with the City of London faced with the task of supporting this highly lucrative and feasible notion.