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London ends Olympic white elephant curse

Monday, August 27, 2012 - 02:44

Aug. 27 - The London Olympics were a great success, but what will be their legacy? Future host cities of the Olympics and other big sporting events are due to follow London's use of temporary venues and stadiums, as environmental concerns and the global financial crisis discourage countries from building expensive white elephants. Joanna Partridge reports.

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Revamped and ready for action. London's Olympic Park has been transformed for the Paralympic Games. The Olympic rings have given way to the Paralympics logo - the Agitos - while in the venues and the Athletes' Village ramps and doorways have been widened and seats adapted to accommodate wheelchairs. But a far bigger transformation lies ahead - the Olympics legacy. Christopher Lee is from architecture firm Populous which helped design the Olympic stadium. SOUNDBITE: Christopher Lee, Director at Populous, saying (English): "Out of 750,000 seats used across the country for the Olympics, 250,000 of them were temporary. The buildings are reconfigured, the fantastic basketball stadiums and the like are going to be removed, potentially sold on to other bidding cities like Rio, and the Park is going to be entirely reconfigured for its legacy use." London's promise to build a mix of permanent and temporary venues helped it win the Games. Environmental concerns and the global financial crisis highlighted the dangers of building expensive white elephants. Olympic history is littered with unloved, underused venues which can be a drain on public finances long after the athletes have gone - as Athens eight years on can testify. Even Beijing failed on that front - its transport infrastructure was improved but it's still struggling to attract anyone other than tourists to many of its Olympic venues. In contrast London's Olympic Park should bring homes and offices to a once barren and disadvantaged area of London, says Daniel Moylan, Chair of the London Legacy Development Corporation. SOUNDBITE: Daniel Moylan, Chair of the London Legacy Development Corporation, saying (English): "We're actually going to be putting in great landscaping, we're going to be taking out the temporary venues, we'll be improving the venues that remain, we'll be starting to develop the residential accommodation there, the athletes' village, people should be moving into that next year, and we've got other residential development coming along and there's commercial space to build out there as well." London's biggest challenge is finding a future tenant for the main stadium. There's been plenty of interest from football, rugby and cricket teams, as well as Formula One motor racing. Conditions attached to the sale are prolonging negotiations but local football club, West Ham United, is the favourite to win. Whatever the stadium ends up being used for - all future Olympic venues are likely to be more sustainable and built on tighter budgets. Members of Rio's organising committee for 2016 have already visited London and are said to be following the British model. Joanna Partridge, Reuters

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London ends Olympic white elephant curse

Monday, August 27, 2012 - 02:44