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With the opening ceremony tonight, it’s finally here, the years of planning are over and the London 2012 Olympic Games are about to start. The 2.5 square km site, which was once industrial land but now the Olympic Park in Stratford, comprises the stadium, aquatic centre, velodrome, Anish Kapoor’s Orbit and also accommodation for the 17,000 athletes and support staff.
So what will happen to the site after the Games are over? There are various bids for the stadium itself and the other sporting venues will continue to be used but there is the question of the buildings constructed for the athletes and support staff.
After the Games, the Olympic Village will become essential new housing for East London. It will be transformed into 2,818 new homes, including 1,379 affordable homes, and will create a new residential quarter to be known as ‘East Village.’ Construction of the Village began in May 2008, following planning approval for the first blocks. Work on the other blocks was staggered throughout 2008 and 2009 and by mid-2012 five plots had been structurally completed with the others completed shortly afterwards.
Temporary partitions have been installed to create the rooms for the athletes and officials though ultimately the accommodation will range from one bedroom apartments to four and five bedroomed townhouses. As soon as the partitions are removed after the Games the kitchens will be installed, along with new carpets or timber floors.
The communities that develop in the area after the Games will be supported by new parklands, open space, new transport links and community facilities. These will include the Chobham Academy, a new education campus with 1,800 places for students aged 3–19, and a new health centre. The Village also includes a ‘Village Plaza’; this space retains London’s tradition of building homes around communal squares and courtyards, with water features highlighting the proximity of the River Lea. The long term plan for the whole area is to create a total of five new neighbourhoods with a further 8,000 or so homes over the next 20 years.
The Village itself falls within the London Borough of Newham which is one of the poorest areas of London; the unemployment rate in the borough stands at 14 per cent, roughly double the rate for London as a whole. Incomes are also lower than in the rest of the capital and a recent report by Save the Children found that approximately one quarter of the children in the borough live in poverty making it the third worst district in the country.
So will this future development help to bring much needed investment to the area?
Well, if you look at the Docklands area of London this also used to be run down until the developers moved in and transformed the old industrial land into the vibrant area it is now, with huge amounts of residential accommodation made more attractive by the fantastic transport links to the City. Maybe the London 2012 Olympics will be the start of the transformation of East London which has been long overdue?
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