Assuring a legacy - promises, progress and potential

A review of legacy across the London 2012 Programme

March 2012

Tags: legacy, review

When London bid to host the 2012 Paralympic Games and Olympic Games the then Mayor and Government saw it as a once-in-a-generation opportunity to deliver a sustainable legacy for one of the most deprived areas of the UK and London. East London, a place where employment, life chances, urban quality and amenity did not match up with London’s average, was firmly catapulted onto the world stage.

The 2012 Programme stakeholders set an impressive suite of sustainability targets under five key themes and these have driven excellent outcomes on the Olympic Park and beyond in the Lower Lea Valley, and across the UK. Nationally, the picture is also good, with some new venues being created or enhanced and programmes to engage people in the spirit of the Games and its legacy.

We have focused this review however, on East London given the bulk of expenditure has occurred there and its prominent place in London’s bid. The Olympic and Paralympic legacy in any city is a unique opportunity that must be grasped
if it is to truly make a lasting difference. Yet, the UK, like the rest of the globe, has experienced a prolonged economic downturn. Less than optimal economic conditions, and the necessary restructuring of key Games stakeholders including the wind-up of LOCOG and the ODA, create a degree of uncertainty going forward. Against each of the sustainability themes, while progress is generally good, there is still more to be implemented, and some challenges to be overcome with respect to healthy living and waste infrastructure in particular. In this we believe there is a danger that achievement of legacy objectives may drift off-course if care is not taken to make sure they remain responsive, strategic and targeted.

The vision for legacy was set out in 2004 and a lot has changed since then, both in terms of the level of achievement within the 2012 Programme, and of course in the broader political and policy landscape. We have recommended that Games bodies and East London stakeholders seize the moment to refresh the vision for legacy, drawing on the extraordinary successes of the programme to date, and considering how this legacy can be best protected and optimised.

In particular, we have suggested that the approach to the physical regeneration of the Olympic Park and sections of the Lower Lea, could be extended the length of the river valley with deep sustainability gains to be made over a 30 year timeframe. We believe that the Lea ecological system offers extraordinary opportunities to London’s industry and communities which, if grasped, could make a significant contribution to the green economy, healthy living, biodiversity, climate change and socio-economic convergence objectives. Such a transformation would point the way of the future for cities in adapting to a leaner, cleaner, greener and more equitable world.

To support the development of this refreshed vision, we have recommended that a community of practice come together to make the pragmatic links that are necessary for such a vision to be grounded in reality, and to bring the local leadership that is required for this process to have currency amongst businesses, third sector agencies and local communities.
The Park legacy is a particular focus of this review, and we have approached this from a governance perspective as its future is still highly dependent upon the quality and commitment of the legacy agency going forward. The legacy for the Olympic Park has evolved from nascent plans drawn up by the London Development Agency through to the establishment of the Olympic Park Legacy Company and the soon to be established London Legacy Development Corporation.

In the past we have been highly critical of the extent to which sustainability was incorporated into delivery plans for legacy on the Park. We are pleased to report that the Olympic Park Legacy Company’s plans are now strong after a slow start. The evidence is now beginning to show that it is able to deliver above expectations. We hope the organisation takes heed of these successes and confidently continues to explore what more can be done to make Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park a world-leading exemplar of sustainable living.

London will have hosted the Games three times by the time 2012 draws to a close. Each time there have been innovations but arguably it is these Games that not only set the benchmark for the future, but also put London on show like never before. The physical legacy is for all to see
but the contribution of the 2012 Programme to new ways of making things happen has also been second to none. We have highlighted a series of policies and programmes which make a substantial contribution to industry, and to sustainable events management. One particular
area where we have recommended that more could be done is for the lessons for sustainable procurement to be assessed and embedded at London and national levels. We have also recommended that LOCOG’s sizeable contribution to moving forward the sustainable events industry be widely available beyond the Games.

From our own perspective, we believe that the very act of creating an independent assurance body to oversee the Games programme continues to be world-leading. This Commission appropriately ends on 31st March 2013 but its own legacy is worth further consideration. We have recommended that the Greater London Authority consider the value of strategic assurance for major projects in London going forward.

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