diamond geezer

 Thursday, November 01, 2012

Remember the Games? They're not even 'last month' any more, they're a thing of the past. You can at least now dash out and buy the official BBC DVD of the Olympics, which promises fifteen hours of highlights spread across five coloured discs. It's telling that the Opening Ceremony features on as many as three of the discs but the Closing Ceremony on just one. The sporting highlights also appear to focus rather too much on "Brit wins gold" and very little on "Rest of the world does better", but that's the media summer for you, and that's how most of us will remember it.

But what of London 2012's more long term inheritance? City Hall is keen we don't forget, so has been running a promotional campaign called Gifts of the Games to showcase the legacy highlights. See what you think.

1) New Heights - The ArcelorMittal Orbit: "The Orbit has already become a London icon and is a huge hit with visitors. It was sold out throughout the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, and as a permanent attraction will continue to attract future visitors to the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, which is predicted to see nine million visitors a year by 2016." Sneakily that nine million figure is for the Park, not the Orbit. And there's no mention that the Orbit won't be reopening soon, indeed you'll probably not get up it again until 2014, and then at what cost? Verdict: legacy postponed

2) First Class - The Arabfly Dangleway: "Thanks to the Games, you can now fly across the Thames by cable car on the Emirates Air Line. The UK’s first urban cable car provides a much-needed new river crossing in east London, and links two world class visitor destinations, the O2 Arena and Excel" Bollocks. Right up until the end of June TfL were making absolutely no claims whatsoever that the cablecar would be completed before the Olympics. Admittedly only the Games could give this aerial link true purpose, but to say it's been built "thanks to the Games" is disingenuous to say the least. Verdict: someone's telling porkies

3) Urban Renewal - The Barking Bathhouse: "Thanks to the Games, CREATE Festival is bringing fresh new experiences to east London like the Barking Bathhouse. This pop-up health spa and architectural installation revives the spirit of Barking’s former bathhouse, which was a popular local facility until its closure in 1986, after 87 years." Erm, a pop-up bathhouse? That doesn't sound very permanent. And sorry, if you live in Barking and fancy a steamy rubdown you're too late, because the pop-up closed for good last weekend. It's true that the CREATE Festival has a much longer shelflife, but that's been running for several summers now, not just 2012. Verdict: there's no legacy here

4) Quality Street - Exhibition Road: "Thanks to the Games, public spaces across town have been brought back to life, like Exhibition Road in Kensington. Exhibition Road is part of the city's legacy from the Great Exhibition of 1851, and hosts famous visitor attractions such as the Victoria & Albert, Science and Natural History Museums." Hang on, wasn't Exhibition Road a Kensington & Chelsea project? It was completed independently in 2011, with 2012's events a mere temporary sideshow. Verdict: not a gift of the Games

5) Park Life - Queen Elizabeth Park: "Thanks to the Games, London now has the world’s largest urban meadow. This once neglected area provided a spectacular stage for the greatest show on earth this summer. The future Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park will become a leading London attraction, inviting visitors to linger in its green open spaces, landscaped gardens and tranquil waterways." Yes, absolutely, one of the finest legacies of all. Opens in eight months time. Verdict: gold medal performance

6) Bright Lights - Tower Bridge: "Thanks to the Games, Tower Bridge is now lit up to impress Londoners and visitors alike. The new lighting system was installed before the Games, and means that people will benefit from seeing the bridge looking even more beautiful for the next 25 years." A lot of money got spent displaying rings on the Thames, so it's not surprising someone wanted them well lit. Other bridges have also benefited. Verdict: another Games-related bright spot

7) Gold Standard - Lee Valley Velopark: "Thanks to the Games, London has world class cycling facilities at the Lee Valley VeloPark. The 6000 seat Velodrome is among the main attractions of the new park, which caters for every type of cyclist, from recreational to training and competition, and where Londoners will be able to train alongside future Olympic and Paralympic gold medal winners." They may have destroyed the Eastway bike circuit to build it, but these new facilities are a definite improvement. Opening next summer. Verdict: wheelie good

8) Opportunity Shops - Westfield Stratford: "Thanks to the Games, there are over 8,000 new jobs for Londoners at Westfield Stratford City. The new retail destination opened in September 2011 giving a massive boost to the local area." Bollocks. Westfield Stratford was firmly on the drawing board before London won its Olympic bid. What the Games did was speed things up a bit, not kick things off. Verdict: this one's all spin

9) Midas Touch - Whitechapel Gallery Makeover: "Thanks to the Games, the Whitechapel Gallery’s had a golden makeover. The gallery commissioned leading British artist and Turner Prize winner Rachel Whiteread to produce a frieze to enliven the façade." A few golden leaves may not sound much, but this project is representing High Street 2012, a linear improvement project that's done sterling long-term work. Verdict: as a resident of the A11 corridor, a big thanks from me

10) House Party - New Homes for Londoners: "Thanks to the Games, there will be over 2,500 new homes for families in east London. Five new neighbourhoods will be developed in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, each with its own distinct character and up to 8,000 new homes built by 2030." This is the true transformation of the Games. From post-industrial backwater to fresh residential sprawl, East London really will never be the same again. Verdict: from coldspot to hotspot

11) In The Pink - Friendly Volunteers: "Thanks to the Games, London’s friendly volunteers have left a fantastic impression on visitors to the city. Who can forget the Mayor’s 8000 Team London Ambassadors who offered a warm and enthusiastic welcome to visitors from around the world?" The summer of 2012 was made great by its volunteers, not least because there were far too many of them. City Hall are very keen to hang onto their fully-trained unpaid workforce and are piloting projects (starting this half-term) to make them useful again. Viable legacy or cheap labour? Verdict: yet to be proven


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