Assuring a legacy?

Shaun McCarthy

March 14, 2012   |   Posted by Shaun McCarthy

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It seems a long time since London was announced as the host city for the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games and those of us involved in the sustainability aspects of the bid tried to work out what a body to assure the sustainability performance would be like. We started with the rather cynical notion that there is no such thing as a sustainable Games, it is not possible to justify the gross consumption of resources to support a sporting event. We can only call London 2012 sustainable if there is a sustainable legacy.

We think of legacy in terms of the environmental, social and economic legacy, primarily for East London but also for the UK as a whole, we also think about the legacy of learning and how this is applied in a wider context. The track record of past Games is patchy, the Olympics helped to put Barcelona on the map as a world city and helped to regenerate the east dock area, the legacy of Athens is almost non-existent and Sydney has done well after a slow start. Beijing is emerging with a legacy of sorts but time will tell.

The time has come to consider London 2012 legacy in detail and I am grateful to my colleague Emma Synnott for an excellent and wide-ranging review which was published this week. In many ways the signs are good. There is clear evidence that the Olympic Park Legacy Company (OPLC) take their responsibility seriously. As the baton passes from ODA and LOCOG, their job is to adopt the high standards already set and build on ever higher performance. After a difficult start the plans being developed are looking positive.

However, it is not just about OPLC or the emerging London Legacy Development Corporation – they do not own the Velodrome, the Olympic Village or the Stratford City complex; the Host Boroughs have a big role, as do organisations on the ground who have done some amazing things at street level and working with communities. We believe that the Lea Valley needs to be seen as a total ecological and socio-economic system in order to reap the undoubted benefits and to live up to the promise of a “blueprint for sustainable living” which was set by the last Government. A community of practice needs to be established to knit together the various initiatives in the area to produce a whole scheme that will be greater than the sum of its parts. This does not mean yet another bureaucratic body or a complex masterplan drawn up by people who have never lived in the area. This requires vision and leadership to galvanise the good work that has been done and to solicit the support of the necessary authorities. There is already an All Party Parliamentary Committee focused on the Olympic legacy and there is a “WaterCity” vision created by the community. We think the time has come for leaders to step up and grasp this unique opportunity.

Shaun McCarthy 

March 2012 

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