One of the main factors in my decision to study abroad in London this semester was the fact that the 2012 Summer Olympics were going to be hosted here just a few short months after my visit. While it is true that I will not get to be in town for the magnificent event, I have always had a large interest in the games and was looking forward to seeing the preparations underway. I have discovered since my arrival that London 2012 is definitely not just a two week period when the Olympics are hosted here, but definitely a momentous and important occasion for the whole city. Four months before the scheduled start of the event and the city is already buzzing with excitement, enthusiasm, and the presence of a million Olympic logos. One of the most prominent pieces of Olympic presence lies in Trafalgar Square, a major public space and tourist spot in the center of the bustling city. In the square lies a giant countdown to the start of the games, helping to build the city’s excitement fever even more. Here is picture of me and a couple friends in front of the famous London 2012 Countdown:
While the countdown lies in the center of the city, the real heart of London 2012 lies in East London, an area that has historically been industrial and poverty stricken. This is where one my main interests in the games lies – analyzing the way the Olympics are used as a tool for regeneration in areas in need of a serious face-lift. I am enrolled in a class here that discusses just that, as we discuss past examples of Olympic regeneration and development and compare them with London 2012’s plan for transforming the infamous East London. While the class mostly consists of discussing the various legacies the Mayor of London has claimed the games will provide, this past week our class session was a little bit different. Instead of meeting in our usual classroom we all met up at the Stratford tube station and set out on an Olympic site tour. The first thing we saw was the redesign of Stratford Station, which added nearly 30 transportation links in the past few months in order to get ready to accommodate the large influx of traffic that area is about to receive. The station now not only serves the underground, but various overground trains and a great increase in bus routes as well. The impending games and their influence can also be seen just past the station, as two new massive shopping areas were created not only for use during the event but also as new institutions for the local community. We also got to see the Olympic Stadium, the arenas where swimming and water polo are going to take place, as well as the Athlete’s Village. We learned about how this infrastructure was going to be used after the games, as this is a common question and criticism involved with hosting a mega-sporting event. Apparently, the majority of the seating for the various stadiums is actually temporary, and has already been bid for and sold to other cities hosting the games after this year. Once the additional seating has been removed, the arenas can be successfully used for a variety of sporting events such as football matches. The aquatics center is undergoing a different path, as it is going to be used as a community swimming pool for the local residents following the games. The Athlete’s Village is also not going to go to waste, as we learned that following the event and a slight re-model, the village is going to be used as low-income housing. Learning about the planned re-use of the facilities was definitely interesting, as I find myself so interested in not only the events in the Olympics themselves but also in the process a host city goes through to bid on, successfully pull off, and profit from such an event.
That is all for now, but here is a picture of the main Olympic Stadium!